Skip to main content

Full text of "The golden bough; a study in comparative religion"

See other formats



<,ti\w,®ltfi>%tal^p . 












/ BY 






yf// rights reser-ved 






For some time I have been preparing a general work 
on primitive superstition and religion. Among the 
problems which had attracted my attention was the 
hitherto unexplained rule of the Arician priesthood ; 
and last spring it happened that in the course of my 
reading I came across some facts which, combined 
with others I had noted before, suggested an explana- 
tion of the rule in question. As the explanation, if 
correct, promised to throw light on some obscure 
features of primitive religion, I resolved to develop it 
fully, and, detaching it from my general work, to issue 
it as a separate study. This book is the result. 

Now that the theory, which necessarily presented 
itself to me at first in outline, has been worked out in 
detail, I cannot but feel that in some places I may 
have pushed it too far. If this should prove to have 
been the case, I will readily acknowledge and retract 
my error as soon as it is brought home to me. Mean- 
time my essay may serve its purpose as a first attempt 
to solve a difficult problem, and to bring a variety of 
scattered facts into some sort of order and system. 

A justification is perhaps needed of the length at 
which I have dwelt upon the popular festivals observed 


by European peasants in spring, at midsummer, and at 
harvest. It can hardly be too often repeated, since it 
is not yet generally recognised, that in spite of their 
fragmentary character the popular superstitions and 
customs of the peasantry are by far the fullest and 
most trustworthy evidence we possess as to the primi- 
tive religion of the Aryans. Indeed the primitive 
Aryan, in all that regards his mental fibre and texture, 
is not extinct. He is amongst us to this day. The 
great intellectual and moral forces which have revolu- 
tionised the educated world have scarcely affected 
the peasant. In his inmost beliefs he is what his 
forefathers were in the days when forest trees still 
grew and squirrels played on the ground where Rome 
and London now stand. 

Hence every inquiry into the primitive religion of 
the Aryans should either start from the superstitious 
beliefs and observances of the peasantry, or should at 
least be constantly checked and controlled by reference 
to them. Compared with the evidence afforded by 
living tradition, the testimony of ancient books on the 
subject of early religion is worth very little. For 
literature accelerates the advance of thought at a 
rate which leaves the slow progress of opinion by 
word of mouth at an immeasurable distance behind. 
Two or three generations of literature may do more 
to change thought than two or three thousand years 
of traditional life. But the mass of the people who 
do not read books remain unaffected by the mental 
revolution wrought by literature ; and so it has come 
about that in Europe at the present day the supersti- 
tious beliefs and practices which have been handed 


down by word of mouth are generally of a far more 
archaic type than the religion depicted in the most 
ancient'literature of the Aryan race. 

It is on these grounds that, in discussing the 
meaning and origin of an ancient Italian priesthood, I 
have devoted so much attention to the popular customs 
and superstitions of modern Europe. In this part of 
my subject I have made great use of the works of the 
late W. Mannhardt, without which, indeed, my book 
could scarcely have been written. Fully recognising 
the truth of the principles which I have imperfectly 
stated, Mannhardt set himself systematically to collect, 
compare, and explain the living superstitions of the 
peasantry. Of this wide field the special department 
which he marked out for himself was the religion of 
the woodman and the farmer, in other words, the 
superstitious beliefs and rites connected with trees and 
cultivated plants. By oral inquiry, and by printed 
questions scattered broadcast over Europe, as well as 
by ransacking the literature of folk-lore, he collected 
a mass of evidence, part of which he published in a 
series of admirable works. But his health, always 
feeble, broke down before he could complete the com- 
prehensive and really vast scheme which he had 
planned, and at his too early death much of his pre- 
cious materials remained unpublished. His manu- 
scripts are now deposited in the University Library at 
Berlin, and in the interest of the study to which he 
devoted his life it is greatly to be desired that they 
should be examined, and that such portions of them as 
he has not utilised in his books should be given to 
the world. 


Of his published works the most important are, 
first, two tracts, Roggenzuolf itnd RoggenJnmd, Danzig 
1865 (second edition, Danzig, 1866), and Die Kornd'd- 
vionen, Berlin, 186S. These little works were put 
forward by him tentatively, in the hope of exciting 
interest in his inquiries and thereby securing the help 
of others in pursuing them. But, except from a few 
learned societies, they met with very little attention. 
Undeterred by the cold reception accorded to his 
efforts he worked steadily on, and in 1875 published 
his chief work, Der Baunikiiltus der Gcrmancn tind 
iJirer NacJibarstamnie. This was followed in 1877 
by Antike Wald- iLud Feldkulte. His MytJwlogischc 
Forsc/mngeu, a posthumous work, appeared in 1884.^ 

Much as I owe to Mannhardt, I owe still more to 
my friend Professor W. Robertson Smith. My interest 
in the early history of society was first excited by the 
works of Dr. E. B. Tylor, which opened up a mental 
vista undreamed of by me before. But it is a long 
step from a lively interest in a subject to a systematic 
study of it ; and that I took this step is due to the 
influence of my friend W. Robertson Smith. The 
debt which I owe to the vast stores of his knowledge, 
the abundance and fertility of his ideas, and his 
unwearied kindness, can scarcely be overestimated. 
Those who know his writings may form some, though 
a very inadequate, conception of the extent to which I 
have been influenced by him. The views of sacrifice 
set forth in his article " Sacrifice " in the Encyclopaedia 

1 For the sake of brevity I have Jioggefiivolf {i\\e references are to the 
sometimes, in the notes, referred to pages of the first edition), Korndd- 
Mannhardt's works respectively as monen, B. A'., A. IV. F., and AI. F. 


B^'itannica, and further developed in his recent work, 
The Religion of the Semites, mark a new departure in 
the historical study of religion, and ample traces of 
them will be found in this book. Indeed the central 
idea of my essay — the conception of the slain god — is 
derived directly, I believe, from my friend. But it is 
due to him to add that he is in no way responsible for 
the general explanation which I have offered of the 
custom of slaying the god. He has read the greater 
part of the proofs in circumstances which enhanced the 
kindness, and has made many valuable suggestions 
which I have usually adopted ; but except where he is 
cited by name, or where the views expressed coincide 
with those of h'is published works, he is not to be 
regarded as necessarily assenting to any of the theories 
propounded in this book. 

The works of Professor G. A. Wilken of Leyden 
have been of great service in directing me to the best 
original authorities on the Dutch East Indies, a very 
important field to the ethnologist. To the courtesy 
of the Rev. Walter Gregor, M.A., of Pitsligo, I am 
indebted for some interesting communications which 
will be found acknowledged in their proper places. 
Mr. Francis Darwin has kindly allowed me to consult 
him on some botanical questions. The manuscript 
authorities to which I occasionally refer are answers 
to a list of ethnological questions which I am circu- 
lating. Most of them will, I hope, be published in 
i]\& Jotirnal of the Anthropological InstitzUe. 

The drawing of the Golden Bough which adorns 
the cover is from the pencil of my friend Professor J. 
H. Middleton. The constant interest and sympathy 


which he has shown in the progress of the book 
have been a great help and encouragement to me in 
writing it. 

The Index has been compiled by Mr. A. Rogers, 
of the University Library, Cambridge. 


Trinity College, Cambridge, 
Wi March 1890. 





1. The Arician Grove . 

2. Primitive man and the supernatural 

3. Incarnate gods 

4. Tree-worship . . . . 

5. Tree-worship in antiquity 






1. Royal and priestly taboos .... 

2. The nature of the soul .... 

3. Royal and priestly taboos {contimied) 





, pp. 213-409 

I. Killing the divine king . . . . . .213 

2. KiUing the tree-spirit 


3. Carrying out Death . 


4. Adonis 


5. Attis . 


6. Osiris . 


7. Dionysus 


8. Demeter and Proserpine 


9, Lityerses 




" The still glassy lake that sleeps 
Beneath Aricia's trees — 
Those trees in whose dim shadow 
The ghastly priest doth reign, 
The priest who slew the slayer, 
And shall himself be slain." 


§ I. — The Arician Grove 

Who does not know Turner's picture of the Golden 
Bough ? The scene, suffused with the golden glow 
of imagination in which the divine mind of Turner 
steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural 
landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little wood- 
land lake of Nemi, " Diana's Mirror," as it was called 
by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm 
water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, 
can ever forget it. The two characteristic Italian 
villages which slumber on its banks, and the equally 
Italian palazzo whose terraced gardens descend steeply 
to the lake, hardly break the stillness and even the 
solitariness of the scene. Dian herself might still 
linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these wood- 
lands wild. 



In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene 
of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern 
shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on 
which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood 
the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, 
or Diana of the Wood.^ The lake and the grove 
were sometimes known as the lake and grove of 
Aricia.- But the town of Aricia (the modern La 
Riccia) was situated about three miles off, at the foot 
of the Alban Mount, and separated by a steep descent 
from the lake, which lies in a small crater-like hollow 
on the mountain side. In this sacred grove there 
grew a certain tree round which at any time of the 
day and probably far into the night a strange figure 
might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a 
drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him 
as if every instant he expected to be set upon by an 
enemy. ^ He was a priest and a murderer ; and the 
man for whom he looked was sooner or later to 
murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. 
Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for 
the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying 
the priest, and having slain him he held office till he 
was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier. 

This strange rule has no parallel in classical 
antiquity, and cannot be explained from it. To find 
an explanation we must go farther afield. No one will 
probably deny that such a custom savours of a barbar- 

1 The site was excavated in 18S5 ^ Qyid, Fasti, vi. 756; Cato quoted 

by Sir John Savile Lumley, English by Priscian, see Peter's Zi'/j^r/k-.v^^wa;/. 

ambassador at Rome. For a general Fragineiita, p. 52 (lat. ed.); Statius, 

description of the site and excavations, Sylv. iii. i, 56. 

see the Athenaeum, loth October 1S85. ^ ^'■(pVPV^ 0^" f""''"' °-fh TrepiaKoirQi' ras 

For details of the finds see Bulletino i-KiQka^is, eroifjios a./ji.vvecrdai, is Strabo's 

deir Institnto di Corrispondenza Archeo- description (v. 3, 12), who may have 

logica, 1885, pp. 149 sqq., 225 sqq. seen him "pacing there alone." 


ous age and, surviving into imperial times, stands out 
in striking isolation from the polished Italian society of 
the day, like a primeval rock rising from a smooth- 
shaven lawn. It is the very rudeness and barbarity of 
the custom which allow us a hope of explaining it. 
For recent researches into the early history of man 
have revealed the essential similarity with which, under 
many superficial differences, the human mind has 
elaborated its first crude philosophy of life. Accord- 
ingly if we can show that a barbarous custom, like that 
of the priesthood of Nemi, has existed elsewhere ; if we 
can detect the motives which led to its institution ; if 
we can prove that these motives have operated widely, 
perhaps universally, in human society, producing in 
varied circumstances a variety of institutions specifically 
different but generically alike ; if we can show, lastly, 
that these very motives, with some of their derivative 
institutions, were actually at work in classical antiquity ; 
then we may fairly infer that at a remoter age the same 
motives gave birth to the priesthood of Nemi. Such 
an inference, in default of direct evidence as to how the 
priesthood did actually arise, can never amount to 
demonstration. But it will be more or less probable 
according to the degree of completeness with which it 
fulfils the conditions indicated above. The object of 
this book is, by meeting these conditions, to offer a 
fairly probable explanation of the priesthood of Nemi. 
I begin by setting forth the few facts and legends 
which have come down to us on the subject. According 
to one story the worship of Diana at Nemi was insti- 
tuted by Orestes, who, after killing Thoas, King of the 
Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea), fled with his sister to 
Italy, bringing with him the image of the Tauric Diana. 
The bloody ritual which legend ascribed to that goddess 


is familiar to classical readers ; it is said that every 
stranger who landed on the shore was sacrificed on her 
altar. But transported to Italy, the rite assumed a 
milder form. Within the sanctuary at Nemi grew a 
certain tree of which no branch might be broken. 
Only a runaway slave was allowed to break off, if he 
could, one of its boughs. Success in the attempt en- 
titled him to fight the priest in single combat, and if he 
slew him he reigned in his stead with the title of King 
of the Wood {Rex Nemoj^ensis). Tradition averred 
that the fateful branch was that Golden Bough which, at 
the Sibyl's bidding, Aeneas plucked before he essayed 
the perilous journey to the world of the dead. The 
flight of the slave represented, it was said, the flight 
of Orestes ; his combat with the priest was a reminis- 
cence of the human sacrifices once offered to the Tauric 
Diana. This rule of succession by the sword was 
observed down to imperial times ; for amongst his 
other freaks Caligula, thinking that the priest of Nemi 
had held office too long, hired a more stalwart ruffian 
to slay him.^ 

Of the worship of Diana at Nemi two leading 
features can still be made out. First, from the votive- 
oflerings found in modern times on the site, it appears 
that she was especially worshipped by women desirous 
of children or of an easy delivery.- Second, fire seems 

1 Virgil, ^t?;;. vi. 136 j<7$'. ; Servius, " Ecce suburbanae tcmplum nemorale 

ad I. ; Strabo, v. 3, 12; Pausanias, ii. Dianae, 

27 ; Solinus, ii. 11; Suetonius, Call- Partaque per gladios regna nocente 

gula, 35. For the title "King of the manu." 

Wood," see Suetonius, I.e. ; and com- 2 Biilletino delC Insiituto, 1885, p. 

pare Statius, Sydv. 111. i, 55 sq.— ^^^ ^^_ . jnhenaeiivi, loth October 

" Jamque dies aderat, profugis cum xegi- 1885; Preller, Romische Mythologie,'^ 

hns apiuvi ;_ ^17. Of these votive offerings 

Fumat Aricinum T, tviae nemus; " ^^^^^^ represent women with children in 

Ovid, Fasti, iii. 271, "Regna tenent their arms ; one represents a deUvery, 

fo7-tesqtie viann, pedibicsque fugaces ; " ^^^^ 
id. Ars atn. i. 259 sq, — 


to have played a foremost part in her ritual. For 
during her annual festival, celebrated at the hottest time 
of the year, her grove was lit up by a multitude of 
torches, whose ruddy glare was reflected by the waters 
of the lake ; and throughout the length and breadth of 
Italy the day was kept with holy rites at every domestic 
hearth.^ Moreover, women whose prayers had been 
heard by the goddess brought lighted torches to the 
grove in fulfilment of their vows.- Lastly, the title of 
Vesta borne by the Arician Diana ^ points almost 
certainly to the maintenance of a perpetual holy fire in 
her sanctuary. 

At her annual festival all young people went through 
a purificatory ceremony in her honour ; dogs were 
crowned ; and the feast consisted of a young kid, wine, 
and cakes, served up piping hot on platters of leaves.^ 

But Diana did not reign alone in her grove at 
Nemi. Two lesser divinities shared her forest sanctu- 
ary. One was Egeria, the nymph of the clear water 
which, bubbling from the basaltic rocks, used to fall in 
graceful cascades into the lake at the place called Le 
Mole.^ According to one story the grove was first 
consecrated to Diana by a Manius Egerius, who was 
the ancestor of a long and distinguished line. Hence 
the proverb " There are many Manii at Ariciae." 
Others explained the proverb very differently. They 
said it meant that there were a great many ugly and 

^ Statius, Sylv. iii. I, ^2 sqq. From ^ Ovid, Fasti, iii. 269; Propertius, 

Martial, xii. 67, it has been inferred iii. 24 (30), 9 sq. ed. Paley. 

that the Arician festival fell on the 13th ^ inscript. Lat. ed. Orelli, No. 1455. 

of August. The inference, however, * Statius, I.e. ; Gratius Faliscus, v. 

does not seem conclusive. Statius's 483 sqq. 

expression is :— ^ Athenaeiini, loth October 1885. 

" Tempuserat, caeli cum ardeniissimus The water was diverted a few years 


ago to supply Albano. For Egeria 
Acer anhelantes incendit Sirius agros. ' ' sqq. 

Incumbit terris, ictusque Hyperione compare Strabo, v. 3, 12; Ovid, 
multo Fasti, iii. 273 sqq. ; id. Met. xv. 487 


deformed people, and they referred to the word Mania 
which meant a bogey or bugbear to frighten children.^ 

The other of these minor deities was Virbius. 
Legend had it that Virbius was the youthful Greek 
hero Hippolytus, who had been killed by his horses 
on the sea-shore of the Saronic Gulf. Him, to please 
Diana, the leech Aesculapius brought to life again by 
his simples. But Jupiter, indignant that a mortal man 
should return from the gates of death, thrust down 
the meddling leech himself to Hades ; and Diana, for 
the love she bore Hippolytus, carried him away to 
Italy and hid him from the angry god in the dells 
of Nemi, where he reigned a forest king under 
the name of Virbius. Horses were excluded from 
the grove and sanctuary, because horses had killed 
Hippolytus." Some thought that Virbius was the 
sun. It was unlawful to touch his image.^ His 
worship was cared for by a special priest, the Flamen 

Such then are the facts and theories bequeathed to 
us by antiquity on the subject of the priesthood of 
Nemi. From materials so slight and scanty it is 
impossible to extract a solution of the problem. It 
remains to try whether the survey of a wider field may 
not yield us the clue we seek. The questions to be 
answered are two : first, why had the priest to slay his 
predecessor ? and second, why, before he slew him, had 
he to pluck the Golden Bough '^. The rest of this 
book will be an attempt to answer these questions. 

1 Festus, p. 145, ed. Miiller ; Schol. id. Met. xv. 497 sgq.; Pausanias, 
on Persius, vi. 56 ap. Jahn on Macro- ii. 27. 

bius, i. 7, 35. 3 Servius on Virgil, Am. vii. 776. 

* Inscript. Lot. ed. Orelli, Nos. 

2 Virgil, Ae>i. vii. 761 sqq.; Ser- 2212,4022. The inscription No. 1457 
vius, ad I. ; Ovid, Fasti, iii. 265 sq. ; (Orelli) is said to be spurious. 


§ 2, — Primitive vian and the siipernatiLral 

The first point on which we fasten is the priest's 
title. Why was he called the King of the Wood ? 
why was his office spoken of as a Kingdom ? ^ 

The union of a royal title with priestly duties was 
common in ancient Italy and Greece. At Rome and 
in other Italian cities there was a priest called the 
Sacrificial King or King of the Sacred Rites i^Rex 
Sacrificulus or Rex Sacroncm), and his wife bore the 
title of Queen of the Sacred Rites.- In republican 
Athens the second magistrate of the state was called 
the King, and his wife the Queen ; the functions of 
both were religious." Many other Greek democracies 
had titular kings, whose duties, so far as they are 
known, seem to have been priestly.^ At Rome the 
tradition was that the Sacrificial King had been 
appointed after the expulsion of the kings in order to 
offer the sacrifices which had been previously offered 
by the kings.^ In Greece a similar view appears to 
have prevailed as to the origin of the priestly kings.*^ 
In itself the view is not improbable, and it is borne out 
by the example of Sparta, the only purely Greek state 
which retained the kingly form of government in 
historical times. For in Sparta all state sacrifices were 
offered by the kings as descendants of the god,^ This 
combination of priestly functions with royal authority 
is familiar to every one. Asia Minor, for example, 
was the seat of various great religious capitals peopled 

1 See above, p. 4, note 1. ^ Livy, ii. 2, i ; Dionysius Halic. 

2 Marquardt, Romische Staatsver- iv. 74, 4. 

walhmg, iii.2 321 sqq. '' Demosthenes, contra Neaer. § 74, 

3 G. Gilbert, Hamilmch dcr griechi- p. 1 370. Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. 63. 
schen Staatsalterthi'uner, i. 241 sq. "' Xenophon, Reptib. Lac. c. 15, cp. 

^ Gilbert, op. cit. ii. 323 j</. id. 13 ; Aristotle, Pol. iii. 14, 3. 


by thousands of "sacred slaves," and ruled by pontiffs 
who wielded at once temporal and spiritual authority, 
like the popes of mediaeval Rome, Such priest-ridden 
cities were Zela and Pessinus.^ Teutonic kings, again, 
in the old heathen days seem to have stood in the 
position, and exercised the powers of high priests.- 
The Emperors of China offer public sacrifices, the 
details of which are regulated by the ritual books." It 
is needless, however, to multiply examples of what is 
the rule rather than the exception in the early history 
of the kingship. 

But when we have said that the ancient kings were 
commonly priests also, we are far from having ex- 
hausted the religious aspect of their office. In those 
days the divinity that hedges a king was no empty 
form of speech but the expression of a sober belief. 
Kings were revered, in many cases not merely as 
priests, that is, as intercessors between man and god, 
but as themselves gods, able to bestow upon their 
subjects and worshippers those blessings which are 
commonly supposed to be beyond the reach of man, 
and are sought, if at all, only by prayer and sacrifice 
offered to superhuman and invisible beings. Thus 
kings are often expected to give rain and sunshine in 
due season, to make the crops grow, and so on. 
Strange as this expectation appears to us, it is quite 
of a piece with early modes of thought. A savage 
hardly conceives the distinction commonly drawn by 
more advanced peoples between the natural and the 
supernatural. To him the world is mostly worked 
by supernatural agents, that is, by personal beings 

1 Strabo, xii. 3, 37. 5, 3 ; cp. xi. 4, ^ Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthihn- 

7. xii. 2, 3. 2, 6. 3, 31 sq. 3, 34. 8, er, p. 243. 

9. 8, 14. But see Encyc. Brit., art. ^ See theZ/-A7 (Legge's translation), 

" Priest," xix. 729. fassim. 


acting on impulses and motives like his own, liable 
like him to be moved by appeals to their pity, their 
fears, and their hopes. In a world so conceived he 
sees no limit to his power of influencing the course of 
nature to his own advantage. Prayers, promises, or 
threats may secure him fine weather and an abundant 
crop from the gods ; and if a god should happen, as 
he sometimes believes, to become incarnate in his own 
person, then he need appeal to no higher power ; he, 
the savage, possesses in himself all the supernatural 
powers necessary to further his own well-being and 
that of his fellow men. 

This is one way in which the idea of a man-god 
is reached. But there is another. Side by side with 
the view of the world as pervaded by spiritual forces, 
primitive man has another conception in which we 
may detect a germ of the modern notion of natural law 
or the view of nature as a series of events occurring in 
an invariable order without the intervention of personal 
agency. The germ of which I speak is involved in 
that sympathetic magic, as it may be called, which 
plays a large part in most systems of superstition. 
One of the principles of sympathetic magic is that any 
effect may be produced by imitating it. To take a few 
instances. If it is wished to kill a person an image 
of him is made and then destroyed ; and it is believed 
that through a certain physical sympathy between the 
person and his image, the man feels the injuries done 
to the image as if they were done to his own body, and 
that when it is destroyed he must simultaneously perish. 
Again, in Morocco a fowl or a pigeon may sometimes 
be seen with a little red bundle tied to its foot. The 
bundle contains a charm, and it is believed that as the 
charm is kept in constant motion by the bird a corre- 


sponding restlessness is kept up in the mind of him or 
her against whom the charm is directed.^ In Nias 
when a wild pig has fallen into the pit prepared for it, 
it is taken out and its back is rubbed with nine fallen 
leaves, in the belief that this will make nine more wild 
pigs fall into the pit just as the nine leaves fell from 
the tree." When a Cambodian hunter has set his nets 
and taken nothing, he strips himself naked, goes some 
way off, then strolls up to the net as if he did not see 
it, lets himself be caught in it and cries, " Hillo ! what's 
this? I'm afraid I'm caught." After that the net is 
sure to catch game.^ In Thiiringen the man who sows 
flax carries the seed in a lono: bap- which reaches from 
his shoulders to his knees, and he walks with long 
strides, so that the bag sways to and fro on his back. 
It is believed that this will cause the flax crop to wave 
in the wind.^ In the interior of Sumatra the rice is 
sown by women who, in sowing, let their hair hang 
loose down their back, in order that the rice may grow 
luxuriantly and have long stalks.^ Again, magic sym- 
pathy is supposed to exist between a man and any 
severed portion of his person, as his hair or nails ; so 
that whoever gets possession of hair or nails may work 
his will, at any distance, upon the person from whom 
they were cut. This superstition is world - wide. 
Further, the sympathy in question exists between 
friends and relations, especially at critical times. 
Hence, for example, the elaborate code of rules which 

1 A. Leared, Morocco and the Moors, Cambodgiens," in Cochiiichine Fran- 

p. 272. caise. Excursions et Reconnaissances, 

" J. W. Thomas, " De jacht op het No. 16, p. 157. 

eiland Nias," in Tijdschi-ift voor In- ■* Witzschel, Sagen, Sitten und 

dische TaalLand-en Volkenkunde, xxvi. Gebriiitche aiis Thiiringen, p. 218, 

277. No. 36. 

•^ E. Aymonier, "Notes sur les cou- ^ Van Hasselt, Volksbeschrijving van 

tumes et croyances superstitieuses des Midden-Sumatra, p. 323. 


regulates the conduct of persons left at home while a 
party of their friends is out fishing or hunting or on 
the war-path. It is thought that if the persons left at 
home broke these rules their absent friends would 
suffer an injury, corresponding in its nature to the 
breach of the rule. Thus when a Dyak is out head- 
hunting, his wife or, if he is unmarried, his sister, must 
wear a sword day and night in order that he may 
always be thinking of his weapons ; and she may not 
sleep during the day nor go to bed before two in the 
morning, lest her husband or brother should thereby 
be surprised in his sleep by an enemy.^ In Laos when 
an elephant hunter is setting out for the chase he warns 
his wife not to cut her hair or oil her body in his 
absence ; for if she cut her hair the elephant would 
burst the toils, if she oiled herself it would slip through 

In all these cases (and similar instances might be 
multiplied indefinitely) an action is performed or 
avoided, because its performance is believed to entail 
good or bad consequenpes of a sort resembling the act 
itself. Sometimes the magic sympathy takes effect 
not so much through an act as through a supposed 
resemblance of qualities. Thus some Bechuanas wear 
a ferret as a charm because, being very tenacious of 
life, it will make them difficult to kill.^ Others wear a 
certain insect, mutilated but living, for a similar pur- 
pose.^ Other Bechuana warriors wear the hair of an 
ox among their own hair and the skin of a frog on 
their mantle, because a frog is slippery and the ox from 

1 J. C. E. Tromp, "DeRambaienSe- ^ j_ Campbell, Travels hi South 
hxot2ir\gT)2i]sks"TiJdschriftvooiT72dische Africa (second journey), ii. 206; 
Taal-Land-en Volkenkiinde, xxv. 118. Barnabas Shaw, Memorials of South 

2 E. Aymcnier, Notes sur le Laos, Africa, p. 66. 

p. 25 sq. ■* Casalis, The Basutos, p. 271 sq. 


which the hair has been taken has no horns and is 
therefore hard to catch ; so the warrior who is provided 
with these charms beheves that he will be as hard to 
hold as the ox and the frog.^ 

Thus we see that in sympathetic magic one event 
is supposed to be followed necessarily and invariably 
by another, without the intervention of any spiritual or 
personal agency. This is, in fact, the modern concep- 
tion of physical causation ; the conception, indeed, is 
misapplied, but it is there none the less. Here, then, 
we have another mode in which primitive man seeks to 
bend nature to his wishes. There is, perhaps, hardly 
a savage who does not fancy himself possessed of this 
power of influencing the course of nature by sympa- 
thetic magic; a man -god, on this view, is only an 
individual who is believed to enjoy this common power 
in an unusually high degree. Thus, whereas a man- 
god of the former or inspired type derives his divinity 
from a deity who has taken up his abode in a tabernacle 
of flesh, a man-god of the latter type draws his super- 
natural power from a certain physical sympathy with 
nature. He is not merely the receptacle of a divine 
spirit. His whole being, body and soul, is so delicately 
attuned to the harmony of the world that a touch of his 
hand or a turn of his head may send a thrill vibrating 
through the universal framework of things ; and con- 
versely his divine organism is acutely sensitive to such 
slight changes of environment as would leave ordinary 
mortals wholly unaffected. But the line between these 
two types of man-god, however sharply we may draw 
it in theory, is seldom to be traced with precision in 
practice, and in what follows I shall not insist on it. 

To readers long familiarised with the conception of 

^ Casalis, 77^^? Basiitos, p. 272. 


natural law, the belief of primitive man that he can rule 
the elements must be so foreign that it may be well to 
illustrate it by examples. When we have seen that in 
early society men who make no pretence at all of being 
gods do nevertheless commonly believe themselves to 
be invested with supernatural powers, we shall have 
the less difficulty in comprehending the extraordinary 
range of powers ascribed to individuals who are actually 
regarded as divine. 

Of all natural phenomena there are perhaps none 
which civilised man feels himself more powerless to 
influence than the rain, the sun, and the wind. Yet 
all these are commonly supposed by savages to be in 
some degree under their control. 

To begin with rain-making. In a village near 
Dorpat in Russia, when rain was much wanted, three 
men used to climb up the fir-trees of an old sacred 
grove. One of them drummed with a hammer on a 
kettle or small cask to imitate thunder ; the second 
knocked two fire-brands together and made the sparks 
fly, to imitate lightning ; and the third, who was called 
"the rain-maker," had a bunch of twigs with which he 
sprinkled water from a vessel on all sides.^ This is an 
example of sympathetic magic ; the desired event is 
supposed to be produced by imitating it. Rain is often 
thus made by imitation. In Halmahera (Gilolo), a 
large island to the west of New Guinea, a wizard 
makes rain by dipping a branch of a particular kind of 
tree in water and sprinkling the ground with it.- In 
Ceram it is enough to dedicate the bark of a certain 
tree to the spirits and lay it in water.^ In New Britain 

1 W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald-imd foeren," in Tijdschrift voor Indische 
Feldkulte, p. 342, note. Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde, xxvii. 447. 

2 C. F. H. Campen " De Gods- ^ ^x&A&\,De sluik-en kroesharige ras- 
dienstbegrippen der Halmaherasche Al- sen tiisschen Selebes en Papua, ^. 114. 


the rain-maker wraps some leaves of a red and green 
striped creeper in a banana-leaf, moistens the bundle 
with water and buries it in the ground ; then he imi- 
tates with his mouth the plashing of rain.^ Amongst 
the Omaha Indians of North America, when the corn 
is withering for want of rain, the members of the sacred 
Buffalo Society fill a large vessel with water and dance 
four times round it. One of them drinks some of the 
water and spirts it into the air, making a fine spray in 
imitation of a mist or drizzling rain. Then he upsets 
the vessel, spilling the water on the ground ; where- 
upon the dancers fall down and drink up the water, 
getting mud all over their faces. Lastly they spirt the 
water into the air, making a fine mist. This saves the 
corn." Amongst the Australian Wotjobaluk the rain- 
maker dipped a bunch of his own hair in water, sucked 
out the water and squirted it westward, or he twirled 
the ball round his head making a spray like rain.^ 
Squirting water from the mouth is also a West African 
way of making rain.-^ Another mode is to dip a 
particular stone in water or sprinkle water on it. In a 
Samoan village a certain stone was carefully housed as 
the representative of the rain-making god ; and in time 
of drought his priests carried the stone in procession, 
and dipped it in a stream.-^ In the Ta-ta-thi tribe of 
New South Wales the rain-maker breaks off a piece 
of quartz crystal and spits it towards the sky ; the rest 
of the crystal he wraps in emu feathers, soaks both 
crystal and feathers in water, and carefully hides them.*^ 

^ R. Parkinson, Im Bismarck Archi- ^ Journal of the Anthropological In- 

■pel, -o- 143- j/z/w/i", xvi. 35. Cp. Dawson, ^«j-/;-a/««« 

2 J. Owen Dorsey, " Omaha Socio- Aborigines, p. 98. 
logy," in Thi7-d Atimial Report of t/ie ^ 'L.^h-A.i, Relation historiqne dePEthi- 

Bureati of EtJmology (W^ashington), opie occidentale, \\. 180. 
p. 347. Cp. Charlevoix, Voyage dans ^ Turner, Samoa, p. 145. 

r Amerique septentrionale, ii. 187. '^ Jotirn. Antlirop. Inst. xiv. 362. 



In the Keramin tribe of New South Wales the wizard 
retires to the bed of a creek, drops water on a round 
flat stone, then covers up and conceals it.^ The 
Fountain of Baranton, of romantic fame, in the forest 
of Brecilien, used to be reso'rted to by peasants when 
they needed rain ; they caught some of the water in a 
tankard and threw it on a slab near the spring.- When 
some of the Apache Indians wish for rain, they take 
water from a certain spring and throw it on a particular 
point high up on a rock ; the clouds then soon gather 
and rain begins to fall.^ There is a lonely tarn on 
Snowdon called Dulyn or the Black Lake, lying " in a 
dismal dingle surrounded by high and dangerous rocks." 
A row of stepping stones runs out into the lake ; and 
if any one steps on the stones and throws water so as 
to wet the farthest stone, which is called the Red 
Altar, "it is but a chance that you do not get rain 
before night, even when it is hot weather."-^ In these 
cases it is probable that, as in Samoa, the stone is 
regarded as in some sort divine. This appears from 
the custom sometimes observed of dipping the cross in 
the Fountain of Baranton, to procure rain ; for this is 
plainly a substitute for the older way of throwing the 
water on the stone."^ In Mingrelia, to get rain they 
dip a holy image in water daily till it rains. "^ In 
Navarre the image of St. Peter was taken to a river, 
where some prayed to him for rain, but others called 
out to duck him in the water.^ Here the dipping in 

1 Joitrn. Anthrop. Inst. I.e. Cp. ^ /^_ p jg^^ go at the fountain of 
Curr, The Australian Race, ii. 377. Sainte Anne, near Geveze, in Brittany. 

2 Rhys, Celtie Heathendom, p. 184; Sebillot, Traditions et Superstitions de 
Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie^ i. 494. ^^ ^'^''^e Bretagne, i. 72. 

Cp. San-Marte, Die Arthur Sage, pp. ° Lamberti, '_' Relation de la Col- 

105 sq., 153 sqq. chide ou Mingrelie," Voyages au Nord, 

o „. . . . ^. ... vii. 174 (Amsterdam, 1725). 

^^ The American Antiquanan, vni. 7 Le Brun, Histoire critique des 

^^"' pratiques superstitieuses (Amsterdam, 

Rhys, Celtic Heathendom,^. 1855^. 1733), i- 245 sq. 


the water is used as a threat ; but originally it was 
probably a sympathetic charm, as in the following 
instance. In New Caledonia the rain-makers blackened 
themselves all over, dug up a dead body, took the bones 
to a cave, jointed them, and hung the skeleton over 
some taro leaves. Water was poured over the skeleton 
to run down on the leaves. " They supposed that the 
soul of the departed took up the water, made rain of 
it, and showered it down again." ^ The same motive 
comes clearly out in a mode of making rain which is 
practised by various peoples of South Eastern Europe. 
In time of drought the Servians strip a girl, clothe her 
from head to foot in grass, herbs, and flowers, even her 
face being hidden with them. Thus disguised she is 
called the Dodola, and goes through the village with a 
troop of girls. They stop before every house ; the 
Dodola dances, while the other girls form a ring round 
her singing one of the Dodola songs, and the housewife 
pours a pail of water over her. 

One of the songs they sing runs thus — 

" We go through the village ; 
The clouds go in the sky ; 
We go faster, 
Faster go the clouds ; 
They have overtaken us, 
And wetted the corn and the vine." 

A similar custom is observed by the Greeks, Bul- 
garians, and Roumanians.- In such customs the leaf- 
dressed girl represents the spirit of vegetation, and 
drenching her with water is an imitation of rain. In 
Russia, in the Government of Kursk, when rain is 
much wanted, the women seize a passing stranger and 

1 Turner, Samoa, p. 345 sq. Memtmg und Branch der Romdnen 

" Mannhardt, Baiimkultus, p. 329 Siebetiburgens, ^. 17 ; E. Gerard, The 

sqq. ; Grimm, D. A/.* i. 493 sq. ; W. Land beyond the Forest, ii. 13. 

Schmidt, Das Jahr und seine Tage in 



throw him into the river, or souse him from head to 
foot/ Later on we shall see that a passing stranger is 
often, as here, taken for a god or spirit. Amongst the 
Minahassa of North Celebes the priest bathes as a rain- 
charm.- In the Caucasian Province of Georgia, when 
a drought has lasted long, marriageable girls are yoked 
in couples with an ox-yoke on their shoulders, a priest 
holds the reins, and thus harnessed they wade through 
rivers, puddles, and marshes, praying, screaming, weep- 
ing, and laughing.^ In a district of Transylvania, 
when the ground is parched with drought, some girls 
strip themselves naked, and, led by an older woman, 
who is also naked, they steal a harrow and carry it 
across the field to a brook, where they set it afloat. 
Next they sit on the harrow and keep a tiny flame 
burning on each corner of it for an hour. Then they 
leave the harrow in the water and go home.'* A similar 
rain-charm is resorted to in India ; naked women drag 
a plough across the field by night.^ It is not said that 
they plunge the plough into a stream or sprinkle it with 
water. But the charm would hardly be complete 
without it. 

Sometimes the charm works through an animal. 
To procure rain the Peruvians used to set a black 
sheep in a ■ field, poured chica over it, and gave it 
nothing to eat till rain fell.'^ In a district of Sumatra 
all the women of the village, scantily clad, go to the 
river, wade into it, and splash each other with the water. 
A black cat is thrown into the water and made to 
swim about for a while, then allowed to escape to the 

1 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 331. -i Mannhardt, B. K. p. 553 ; Gerard, 

2 J. G. F. Riedel, " De Minahasa The Land beyond the Forest, \\. i,o. 

in 1825," Tijdschrift V. Iiidische Taal- ^ Patijab Notes and Queries, iii. Nos. 

Land-en Volkenkunde, xviii. 524. 1 73, 513. 

3 J. Reinegg, Beschreibimg des Kau- ^ Acosta, History of the Indies, bk. 
has7is, ii. 114. v. ch. 28. 



bank, pursued by the splashing of the women. ^ In 
these cases the colour of the animal is part of the charm ; 
being black it will darken the sky with rain-clouds. 
So the Bechuanas burn the stomach of an ox at evening, 
because they say, " the black smoke will gather the 
clouds, and cause the rain to come."" The Timorese 
sacrifice a black pig for rain, a white or red one for 
sunshine.^ The Garos offer a black goat on the top of 
a very high mountain in time of drought.^ 

Sometimes people try to coerce the rain-god into 
giving rain. In China a huge dragon made of paper 
or wood, representing the rain-god, is carried about in 
procession ; but if no rain follows, it is cursed and torn 
in pieces.'' In the like circumstances the Feloupes of 
Senegambia throw down their fetishes and drag them 
about the fields, cursing them till rain falls." Some 
Indians of the Orinoco worshipped toads and kept 
them in vessels in order to obtain from them rain or 
sunshine as might be required ; when their prayers 
were not answered they beat the toads." Killing a 
frog is a European rain -charm.® When the spirits 
withhold rain or sunshine, the Comanches whip a 
slave ; if the gods prove obstinate, the victim is almost 
flayed alive.^ Here the human being may represent 
the god, like the leaf-clad Dodola. When the rice- 
crop is endangered by long drought, the governor of 

1 K.\..\7inYi?&'i,&\^,Volksbeschrijving ^ Bivenger-Feraud, Les J>cv//>/acL's de 
van Midden-SiiDiatra, p. 320 j-^. la SenSgambie, p. 291. • 

2 South African Folk-lore Journal, "' Colombia, being a geographical etc. 
J -, . account of that country, i. 642 sq. ; 

^ \ r. r- r^ , , , T- 1 A. Bastian, Die Culturldnder des alten 

" T. &• G. Grambeic:, " Lene maand . •/ •• ^ 

,-' ,. , , *=' „. „ . Aiuerjka,\\. 216. 

in de binnenlanden van 1 inior, in s a t- u o ^ / ■■ 7 , 

Tr , 7 7- 7 ^ u , ■ 1 A. Kuhn, 6(7 "vn, Gebrauche und 

Verhandehns'en van het hatavianscli nr-ri nr ,,- ? •• o 

_ ^ 7 ^ /' , Tjr f Mahrchen aiis Westtalen, w. p. 80; 

Getiootschap zian Aunsten en IVeten- ^ j -n r ji j\i 7- . •• 

^ . Gerard, The Land beyond the Forest, 11. 
schappen, xxxvi. 209. 

^ Ti^\^o-a, Ethnology of Bengal, x^.-iZ. ""'J Bancroft, Native Races of the 

^ Hue, U empire chinois, i. 241. Pacific States, i. 520. 


Battambang, a province of Siam, goes in great state to 
a certain pagoda and prays to Buddha for rain. Then 
accompanied by his suite and followed by an enormous 
crowd he adjourns to a plain behind the pagoda. 
Here a dummy figure has been made up, dressed in 
bright colours, and placed in the middle of the plain. 
A wild music begins to play ; maddened by the din of 
drums and cymbals and crackers, and goaded on by 
their drivers, the elephants charge down on the 
dummy and trample it to pieces. After this, Buddha 
will soon give rain.^ 

Another way of constraining the rain-god is to dis- 
turb him in his haunts. This seems the reason why 
rain is supposed to be the consequence of troubling a 
sacred spring. The Dards believe that if a cowskin 
or anything impure is placed in certain springs, storms 
will follow.^ Gervasius mentions a spring into which 
if a stone or a stick were thrown, rain would at once 
issue from it and drench the thrower." There was a 
fountain in Munster such that if it were touched or 
even looked at by a human being, it would at once 
flood the whole province with rain.^ Sometimes an 
appeal is made to the pity of the gods. When their 
corn is being burnt up by the sun, the Zulus look out 
for a "heaven-bird," kill it, and throw it into a pool. 
Then the heaven melts with tenderness for the death 
of the bird ; "it wails for it by raining, wailing a 
funeral wail."^ In times of drought the Guanches of 
Teneriffe led their sheep to sacred ground, and there 

1 Brien, " Aper9U sur la province de ^ Gervasius von TillDurg, ed. Lieb- 
Battambang," in Cochinchine francaise, recht, p. 41 sq. 

Excursions et Reconnaissances, No. 25, ^ Giraldus Cambrensis, Topography 

p. 6 sq. of Ireland, ch. 7. Cp. Mannhardt, 

A. W. F. p. 341 note. 

2 Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindoo ^ Callaway, Religions System of the 
Koosh, p. 95. Aniazulu, p. 407 sq. 


they separated the lambs from their dams, that their 
plaintive bleating might touch the heart of the god.^ 
A peculiar mode of making rain was adopted by the 
heathen Arabs. They tied two sorts of bushes to the 
tails and hind-legs of their cattle, and setting fire to 
the bushes drove the cattle to the top of a mountain, 
praying for rain." This may be, as Wellhausen sug- 
gests, ^ an imitation of liohtninof on the horizon. But 
it may also be a way of threatening the sky ; as some 
West African rain-makers put a pot of inflammable 
materials on the fire and blow up the flames, threaten- 
ing that if heaven does not soon give rain they will 
send up a flame which will set the sky on fire.^ The 
Dieyerie of South Australia have a way of their own 
of making rain. A hole is dug about twelve feet long 
and eight or ten broad, and over this hole a hut of 
logs and branches is made. Two men, supposed to 
have received a special inspiration from Mooramoora 
(the Good Spirit), are bled by an old and influential 
man with a sharp flint inside the arm ; the blood is 
made to flow on the other men of the tribe who sit 
huddled together. At the same time the two bleeding 
men throw handfuls of down, some of which adheres 
to the blood, while the rest floats in the air. The 
blood is thought to represent the rain, and the down 
the clouds. During the ceremony two large stones 
are placed in the middle of the hut ; they stand for 
gathering clouds and presage rain. Then the men 
who were bled carry away the stones for about fifteen 
miles and place them as high as they can in the tallest 
tree. Meanwhile, the other men gather gypsum, pound 

^ Reclus, N'ouvdk Geographic Uiii- ^ Reste arabischen Heidentumes, p. 

fefselle, xii. loo. I57- 

2 Rasmussen, Additamenta ad histo- * Labat, Relation histoi-iqtie de 

rianiArabum ante Islamis7nu7n,^.(>T sq. VEthiopie occidentale, ii. i8o. 


it fine, and throw it into a water-hole. This the Moora- 
moora is supposed to see, and at once he causes the 
clouds to appear in the sky. Lastly, the men surround 
the hut, butt at it with their heads, force their way in, 
and reappear on the other side, repeating this till the 
hut is wrecked. In doing this they are forbidden to 
use their hands or arms ; but when the heavy logs 
alone remain, they are allowed to pull them out with 
their hands. "The piercing of the hut with their 
heads symbolises the piercing of the clouds ; the fall 
of the hut, the fall of rain."^ Another Australian 
mode of rain-making is to burn human hair.'- 

Like other peoples the Greeks and Romans sought 
to procure rain by magic, when prayers and processions ^ 
had proved ineffectual. For example, in Arcadia, 
when the corn and trees were parched with drought, 
the priest of Zeus dipped an oak branch into a certain 
spring on Mount Lycaeus. Thus troubled, the water 
sent up a misty cloud, from which rain soon fell upon 
the land.* A similar mode of making rain is still 
practised, as we have seen, in Halmahera near New 
Guinea. The people of Crannon in Thessaly had a 
bronze chariot which they kept in a temple. When 
they desired a shower they shook the chariot and the 
shower fell.^ Probably the rattling of the chariot was 
meant to imitate thunder ; we have already seen that 
in Russia mock thunder and lightning form part of 
a rain-charm. The mythical Salmoneus of Thessaly 
made mock thunder by dragging bronze kettles behind 
his chariot or by driving over a bronze bridge, while 

1 S. Gason, "TheDieyerie tribe," in 44; Tertullian, Apolog. 40; cp. id. 2.2. 
Native T7-ibes ofS. Australia, p. 276 sqq. and 23. 

2 W. Stanbridge, " On the Aborigines * Pausanias, viii. 38, 4. 

of Victoria," in Trans. Ethtiol. Soc. of ^ Antigonus, Histor. Mirah. 15 

Londoti, i. 300. {Script, mirab. Gracci, ed. Wester- 

3 Marcus Antoninus, v. 7 ; Petronius, mann, p. 65 ). 


he hurled blazing torches in imitation of lightning. It 
was his impious wish to mimic the thundering car of 
Zeus as it rolled across the vault of heaven.^ Near a 
temple of Mars, outside the walls of Rome, there was 
kept a certain stone known as the lapis inanalis. In 
time of drought the stone was dragged into Rome and 
this was supposed to bring down rain immediately.^ 
There were Etruscan wizards who made rain or dis- 
covered springs of water, it is not certain which. 
They were thought to bring the rain or the water out 
of their bellies.'^ The legendary Telchines in Rhodes 
are described as magicians who could change their 
shape and bring clouds, rain, and snow.* 

Again, primitive man fancies he can make the sun 
to shine, and can hasten or stay its going down. At 
an eclipse the Ojebways used to think that the sun was 
being extinguished. So they shot fire-tipped arrows 
in the air, hoping thus to rekindle his expiring light.^ 
Conversely during an eclipse of the moon some Indian 
tribes of the Orinoco used to bury lighted brands in 
the ground ; because, said they, if the moon were to 
be extinguished, all fire on earth would be extinguished 
with her, except such as was hidden from her sight.*^ 
In New Caledonia when a wizard desires to make 
sunshine, he takes some plants and corals to the burial- 
ground, and makes them into a bundle, adding two 
locks of hair cut from a living child (his own child if 

1 Apollodorus, Bibl. i. 9, 7 ; Virgil, 69, ed. Quicheiat. In favour of taking 
Ae7i.y!\.^%<-y$qq.; Servius on Virgil, /.r. aqnilex as rain-maker is the use of 

2 Festus, svv. aquadiciuni and aqitaclicium in the sense of rain-making. 
vianalem lapidem, pp. 2, 128, ed. Cp. K. O. Mliller, Die Etrusker, ed. 
Miiller ; Nonius Marcellus, sv. trulhim, W. Deecke, ii. 318 sq. 

p. 637, ed. Quicherat ; Servius on ■* Diodorus, v. 55. 

Virgil, Aen. iii. 175; Fulgentius, ^ '?&\.&x']o\\&%. History of the Ojehway 

Expos, serin, antiq., sv. manales lapides, Indians, p. 84. 

Mythogr. Lat. ed. Staveren, p. 769 sq. ^ Gumilla, Histoire de TOraioque, iii, 

2 Nonius Marcellus, sv. aquilex, p. 243 sq. 


possible), also two teeth or an entire jawbone from 
the skeleton of an ancestor. He then climbs a high 
mountain whose top catches the first rays of the 
morning sun. Here he deposits three sorts of plants 
on a flat stone, places a branch of dry coral beside 
them, and hangs the bundle of charms over the stone. 
Next morning he returns to this rude altar, and at the 
moment when the sun rises from the sea he kindles a 
fire on the altar. As the smoke rises, he rubs the 
stone with the dry coral, invokes his ancestors and 
says : " Sun ! I do this that you may be burning hot, 
and eat up all the clouds in the sky." The same 
ceremony is repeated at sunset.^ When the sun rises 
behind clouds — a rare event in the bright sky of 
Southern Africa — the Sun clan of the Bechuanas say 
that he is grieving their heart. All work stands still, 
and all the food of the previous day is given to matrons 
or old women. They may eat it and may share it with 
the children they are nursing, but no one else may 
taste it. The people go down to the river and wash 
themselves all over. Each man throws into the river 
a stone taken from his domestic hearth, and replaces it 
with one picked up in the bed of the river. On their 
return to the village the chief kindles a fire in his hut, 
and all his subjects come and get a light from it. A 
general dance follows." In these cases it seems that 
the lighting of the flame on earth is supposed to 
rekindle the solar fire. Such a belief comes naturally 
to people who, like the Sun clan of the Bechuanas, 

1 Glaumont, " Usages, moeurs et For the kinship with the sacred object 
couturaes des Neo-Caledoniens," in (tchem) from which the clan takes its 
Revile d Ethnogj-aphie, \\. 116. name, see ib. pp. 350, 422, 424. 

Other people have claimed kindred 

2 Arbousset et Daumas, Voyage with the sun, as the Natcliez of North 
d' exploration an Nord-est de la Colonic America ( Voyages an Nord, v. 24) and 
du Cap de Bonne-Esperance, p. 350 sq. the Incas of Peru. 


deem themselves the veritable kinsmen of the sun. 
The Melanesians make sunshine by means of a mock 
sun, A round stone is wound about with red braid 
and stuck with owl's feathers to represent rays ; it is 
then hung on a high tree. Or the stone is laid on the 
ground with white rods radiating from it to imitate 
sunbeams.^ Sometimes the mode of making sunshine 
is the converse of that of making rain. Thus we have 
seen that a white or red pig is sacrificed for sunshine, 
as a black one is sacrificed for rain." Some of the 
New Caledonians drench a skeleton to make rain, but 
burn it to make sunshine/' 

In a pass of the Peruvian Andes stand two ruined 
towers on opposite hills. Iron hooks are clamped into 
their walls for the purpose of stretching a net from 
one tower to the other. The net is intended to catch 
the sun.* 

On the top of a small hill in Fiji grew a patch of 
reeds, and travellers who feared to be belated used to 
tie the tops of a handful of reeds together to detain 
the sun from going down.'' The intention perhaps 
was to entangle the sun in the reeds, just as the 
Peruvians try to catch him in the net. Stories of men 
who have caught the sun in a noose are widely spread.*^ 
Jerome of Prague, travelling among the heathen 
Lithuanians early in the fifteenth century, found a tribe 
who worshipped the sun and venerated a large iron 
hammer. The priests told him that once the sun had 
been invisible for several months, because a powerful 

1 Codrington, in lonrn. Anthrop. place is Andahuayllas. 

Inst it. X. 278. ^ Th. \\'\\\iasns, Fiji and the Ftjiaits, 

2 Above, p. 18. i. 250. 

^ Turner, ^rtwi'rt', p. 346. See above, '' 'i>c\\oo\,T/ie A nic/ican Indians, 

p. 16. p. 97 j-(/(/. ; G'lW, Alyths and Songs of the 

* Bastian, Die Fo/ker des bstlicheti South Pacific,^. (y\ sq.; Twxwqx, Samoa, 

Asien, iv. 1 74. The name of the p. 200 sq. 


king had shut it up in a strong tower ; but the signs 
of the zodiac had broken open the tower with this very 
hammer and released the sun. Therefore they adored 
the hammer/ When an AustraHan blackfellow wishes 
to stay the sun from going down till he gets home, he 
places a sod in the fork of a tree, exactly facing the 
setting sun.- For the same purpose an Indian of 
Yucatan, journeying westward, places a stone in a tree 
or pulls out some of his eyelashes and blows them 
towards the sun.^ South African natives, in travelling, 
will put a stone in a branch of a tree or place some 
grass on the path with a stone over it, believing that 
this will cause their friends to keep the meal waiting 
till their arrival.'^ In these, as in previous examples, 
the purpose apparently is to retard the sun. But why 
should the act of putting a stone or a sod in a tree be 
supposed to effect this ? A partial explanation is 
suggested by another Australian custom. In their 
journeys the natives are accustomed to place stones in 
trees at different heights from the ground in order to 
indicate the height of the sun in the sky at the moment 
when they passed the particular tree. Those who 
follow are thus made aware of the time of day when 
their friends in advance passed the spot.-'* Possibly 
the natives, thus accustomed to mark the sun's progress, 
may have slipped into the confusion of imagining that 
to mark the sun's progress was to arrest it at the point 
marked. On the other hand, to make it go down 
faster, the Australians throw sand into the air and 
blow with their mouths towards the sun.*^ 

1 Aeneas Sylvius, C/«'« (Bale, 1 571), * South African Folk-lore /om-nal, 

p. 418 [wrongly numbered 420]. i. 34. 

- Brough Smyth, Aboi-igines of ^ E. J. Eyre, Journals of Expeditio7is 

Vicforia, i\. 2ZA ^ Cmr, T/ie Ajist}-alia7t of Discovery into Central Australia, 

Race, i. 50. ii. 365. 

^ Fancourt, History of Yticatan, p. 1 18. ^ Curr, The Australian Race, iii. 145. 


Once more, the savage thinks he can make the 
wind to blow or to be still. When the day is hot and 
a Yakut has a long way to go, he takes a stone which 
he has chanced to find in an animal or fish, winds a 
horse-hair several times round it, and ties it to a stick. 
He then waves the stick about, uttering a spell. Soon 
a cool breeze begins to blow.^ The Wind clan of the 
Omahas flap their blankets to start a breeze which will 
drive away the mosquitoes.- When a Haida Indian 
wishes to obtain a fair wind, he fasts, shoots a raven, 
singes it in the fire, and then going to the edge of the 
sea sweeps it over the surface of the water four times 
in the direction in which he wishes the wind to blow. 
He then throws the raven behind him, but afterwards 
picks it up and sets it in a sitting posture at the foot 
of a spruce-tree, facing towards the required wind. 
Propping its beak open with a stick, he requests a fair 
wind for a certain number of days ; then going away 
he lies covered up in his mantle till another Indian 
asks him for how many days he has desired the wind, 
which question he answers.^ When a sorcerer in New 
Britain wishes to make a wind blow in a certain 
direction, he throws burnt lime in the air, chanting 
a song all the time. Then he waves sprigs of ginger 
and other plants about, throws them up and catches 
them. Next he makes a small fire with these sprigs 
on the spot where the lime has fallen thickest, and 
walks round the fire chanting. Lastly, he takes the 
ashes and throws them on the water.^ On the altar of 
Fladda's chapel, in the island of Fladdahuan (one of 

1 Gmelin, Rcise durch Sibirien, ii. Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands," 
5 1 o. Geological Sti)~vey of Canada, Repo7-t oj 

2 Third Anntial Report of the Bureau progress for 1 878- 1879, P- 124 B. 
^^//zwo/(7£j' (Washington), p. 241. * W. Powell, Wanderings iii a Wild 

3 G. M. Dawson, "On the Haida Country, p. 169. 


the Hebrides), lay a round bluish stone which was 
always moist. Windbound fishermen walked sunwise 
round the chapel and then poured water on the stone, 
whereupon a favourable breeze was sure to spring up.^ 
In Finnland wizards used to sell wind to storm-staid 
mariners. The wind was enclosed in three knots ; if 
they undid the first knot, a moderate wind sprang up ; 
if the second, it blew half a gale ; if the third, a hurri- 
cane.^ The same thing is said to have been done by 
wizards and witches in Lappland, in the island of 
Lewis, and in the Isle of Man.^ A Norwegian witch 
has boasted of sinking a ship by opening a bag in 
which she had shut up a wind.-* Ulysses received the 
winds in a leather bag from Aeolus, King of the 
Winds.'^ So Perdoytus, the Lithuanian wind -god, 
keeps the winds enclosed in a leather bag ; when they 
escape from it he pursues them, beats them, and shuts 
them up again.'' The Motumotu in New Guinea think 
that storms are sent by an Oiabu sorcerer ; for each 
wind he has a bamboo which he opens at pleasure." 
But here we have passed from custom (with which 
alone we are at present concerned) into mythology. 
Shetland seamen still buy winds from old women who 
claim to rule the storms. There are now in Lerwick 
old women who live by selling wind.^ When the 
Hottentots wish to make the wind drop, they take one 
of their fattest skins and hang it on the end of a pole, 

1 Miss C. F. Gordon Gumming, In * C. Leemius, De Lapponibus Fin- 
the Hebrides, p. 166 sq. ; Martin, " De- marcJiiae etc. conunentatio, p. 454. 
scription of the Western Islands of ^ Odyssey, x. 19 sqq. 

Scotland," in Pinkerton's Voyages and ^ E. Veckenstedt, Die My then. 

Travels, iii. 627. Sagen, iind Legenden der Zaiiiaitett 

2 Glaus Magnus, Gentium Septentr. [Li/aner), i. 153. 

Hist. iii. 15. '' ]. Chalmers, Pioneering in Nrw 

^ Schefter, Zrt/'/^«/<?, p. 144; Gordon Guinea, y>. I77' 

Gumming, /// the Hebrides, p. 254 sq. ; ^ Rogers, Social Life in Scotland, iii. 

Train, Account of the Isle of Man, ii. 220 ; Sir W. Scott, Pirate, note to ch. 

166. vii. ; Shaks. Macbeth, Act i. Sc. 3, 1. 1 1. 


believing that by blowing the skin down the wind will 
lose all its force and must itself fall.^ In some parts 
of Austria, during a heavy storm, it is customary to 
open the window and throw out a handful of meal, 
chaff, or feathers, saying to the wind, "There, that's 
for you, stop!"- Once when north-westerly winds 
had kept the ice long on the coast, and food was 
getting scarce, the Eskimos of Alaska performed a 
ceremony to make a calm. A fire was kindled on the 
shore and the men gathered round it and chanted. 
An old man then stepped up to the fire and in a 
coaxing voice invited the demon of the wind to come 
under the fire and warm himself. When he was 
supposed to have arrived, a vessel of water, to which 
each man present had contributed, was thrown on 
the fire by an old man, and immediately a flight of 
arrows sped towards the spot where the fire had been. 
They thought that the demon would not stay where he 
had been so badly treated. To complete the effect, 
guns were discharged in various directions, and the 
captain of a European vessel was asked to fire on the 
wind with cannon.'^ When the wind blows down their 
huts, the Payaguas in South America snatch up fire- 
brands and run against the wind menacing it with 
the blazing brands, while others beat the air with their 
fists to frighten the storm.* When the Guaycurus are 
threatened by a severe storm the men go out armed, 
and the women and children scream their loudest to 
intimidate the demon. ^ During a tempest the inhabi- 
tants of a Batta village in Sumatra have been seen to 

1 Dapper, Description de F Afriqtie (7/1875 (I^- Geogr. Soc), p- 274.^ 
(Amsterdam, 1686), p. 389. ■* Azara, Voyages dans rAmcriqne 

2 A. Peter, Volksthiimliches aiis iMeridionale, ii. 137. 
Oesterreichisch ScJilesien, ii. 259. ^ Cliarlevoix, Hisioire du Paraguay, 

3 Arctic Papers for the Expedition i. 74. 


rush from their houses armed with sword and lance. 
The Raja placed himself at their head, and with shouts 
and yells they hewed and hacked at the invisible 
foe. An old woman was observed to be especially 
active in defending her house, slashing the air right 
and left with a long sabre.^ 

In the light of these examples a story told by 
Herodotus, which his modern critics have treated as a 
fable, is perfectly credible. He says, without however 
vouching for the truth of the tale, that once in the land 
of the Psylli, the modern Tripoli, the wind blowing 
from the Sahara had dried up all the water-tanks. So 
the people took counsel and marched in a body to 
make war on the south wind. But when they entered 
the desert, the simoom swept down on them and 
buried them to a man.- The story may well have 
been told by one who watched them disappearing, in 
battle array, with drums and cymbals beating, into the 
red cloud of whirling sand. It is still said of the 
Bedouins of Eastern Africa that " no whirlwind ever 
sweeps across the path without being pursued by a 
dozen savages with drawn creeses, who stab into the 
centre of the dusty column in order to drive away the 
evil spirit that is believed to be riding on the blast." ^ 
So in Australia the huge columns of red sand that 
move rapidly across a desert tract are thought by the 
blackfellows to be spirits passing along. Once an 
athletic young black ran after one of these moving 
columns to kill it with boomerangs. He was away two 
or three hours and came back very weary, saying he 
had killed Koochee (the demon), but that Koochee 

^ W. A. Henry, " Bijdrage tot de 2 Herodotus, iv. 173; Aulus Gellius, 

Kennis der Bataklanden," in Tijd- xvi. 11. 

schrift voor Indische Taal-Land-en ^ Harris, Highlands of Ethiopia, i. 

Volkenkunde, xvii. 23 sq. 352. 


had growled at him and he must die.^ Even where 
these dust columns are not attacked they are still 
regarded with awe. In some parts of India they are 
supposed to be bhuts going to bathe in the Ganges.'- 
Californian Indians think that they are happy souls 
ascending to the heavenly land.^ 

When a gust lifts the hay in the meadow, the 
Breton peasant throws a knife or a fork at it to prevent 
the devil from carrying off the hay.^ German peasants 
throw a knife or a hat at a whirlwind because there is 
a witch or a wizard in it."^ 

§ 3. — Incarnate gods 

These examples, drawn from the beliefs and 
practices of rude peoples all over the world, may 
suffice to prove that the savage, whether European or 
otherwise, fails to recognise those limitations to his 
power over nature which seem so obvious to us. In a 
society where every man is supposed to be endowed 
more or less with powers which we should call super- 
natural, it is plain that the distinction between gods 
and men is somewhat blurred, or rather has scarcely 
emerged. The conception of gods as supernatural 
beings entirely distinct from and superior to man, 
and wielding powers to which he possesses nothing 
comparable in degree and hardly even in kind, has 
been slowly evolved in the course of history. At first 
the supernatural agents are not regarded as greatly, if 

1 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of ^ Stephen Powers, Tribes of Cali- 
Vidoria, i. 457 sq. ; cp. id. ii. 270; fornia, p. 328. 

Journ. A7ithrop. Inst. xiii. p. 194 note. 4 c n -n * /- . . . 7 • 

2 Denzil C J. Ihh^i^ol Settlement , * Sebillot, C«,/»;«.. fofuiatres de 
Report of the Panipat Tahsil and Karnal '"^ ^^nte-Bretagne, p. 302 sq. 
Parganahof the A'arnal District, -p- ISA- ^ Mannhardt, A.W.F. p. 85. 


at all, superior to man ; for they may be frightened 
and coerced by him into doing his will. At this stage 
of thought the world is viewed as a great democracy ; 
all beings in it, whether natural or supernatural, are 
supposed to stand on a footing of tolerable equality. 
But with the growth of his knowledge man learns to 
realise more clearly the vastness of nature and his 
own littleness and feebleness in presence of it. The 
recognition of his own helplessness does not, however, 
carry with it a corresponding belief in the impotence 
of those supernatural beings with which his imagination 
peoples the universe. On the contrary it enhances his 
conception of their power. For the idea of the world 
as a system of impersonal forces acting in accordance 
with fixed and invariable laws has not yet fully dawned 
or darkened upon him. The germ of the idea he 
certainly has, and he acts upon it, not only in magic 
art, but in much of the business of daily life. But the 
idea remains undeveloped, and so far as he attempts 
consciously to explain the world he lives in, he pictures 
it as the manifestation of conscious will and personal 
agency. If then he feels himself to be so frail and 
slight, how vast and powerful must he deem the beings 
who control the gigantic machinery of nature ! Thus 
as his old sense of equality with the gods slowly 
vanishes, he resigns at the same time the hope of 
directing the course of nature by his own unaided 
resources, that is, by magic, and looks more and more 
to the gods as the sole repositories of those supernatural 
powers which he once claimed to share with them. 
With the first advance of knowledge, therefore, prayer 
and sacrifice assume the leading place in religious 
ritual ; and magic, which once ranked with them as a 
legitimate equal, is gradually relegated to the back- 


ground and sinks to the level of a black art. It is now 
regarded as an encroachment, at once vain and impious, 
on the domain of the gods, and as such encounters the 
steady opposition of the priests, whose reputation and 
influence gain or lose with those of their gods. Hence, 
when at a late period the distinction between religion 
and superstition has emerged, we find that sacrifice and 
prayer are the resource of the pious and enlightened 
portion of the community, while magic is the refuge of 
the superstitious and ignorant. But when, still later, 
the conception of the elemental forces as personal 
agents is giving way to the recognition of natural law ; 
then magic, based as it implicitly is on the idea of a 
necessary and invariable sequence of cause and effect, 
independent of personal will, reappears from the 
obscurity and discredit into which it had fallen, and by 
investigating the causal sequences in nature, directly 
prepares the way for science. Alchemy leads up to 

The notion of a man -god or of a human being 
endowed with divine or supernatural powers, belongs 
essentially to that earlier period of religious history in 
which gods and men are still viewed as beings of 
much the same order, and before they are divided by 
the impassable gulf which, to later thought, opens out 
between them. Strange, therefore, as may seem to us 
the idea of a god incarnate in human form, it has 
nothing very startling for early man, who sees in a 
man -god or a god -man only a higher degree of the 
same supernatural powers which he arrogates in 
perfect good faith to himself Such incarnate gods 
are common in rude society. The incarnation may 
be temporary or permanent. In the former case, the 
incarnation — commonly known as inspiration or pos- 


session — reveals itself in supernatural knowledge 
rather than in supernatural power. In other words, 
its usual manifestations are divination and prophesy 
rather than miracles. On the other hand, when the 
incarnation is not merely temporary, when the divine 
spirit has permanently taken up its abode in a human 
body, the god-man is usually expected to vindicate his 
character by working miracles. Only we have to 
remember that by men at this stage of thought 
miracles are not considered as breaches of natural 
law. Not conceiving the existence of natural law, 
primitive man cannot conceive a breach of it. A 
miracle is to him merely an unusually striking mani- 
festation of a common power. 

The belief in temporary incarnation or inspiration 
is world-wide. Certain persons are supposed to be 
possessed from time to time by a spirit or deity ; 
while the possession lasts, their own personality lies 
in abeyance, the presence of the spirit is revealed by 
convulsive shiverings and shakings of the man's whole 
body, by wild gestures and excited looks, all of which 
are referred, not to the man himself, but to the spirit 
which has entered into him ; and in this abnormal state 
all his utterances are accepted as the voice of the god 
or spirit dwelling in him and speaking through him. In 
Mangaia the priests in whom the gods took up their 
abode from time to time were called "god-boxes" or, 
for shortness, "gods." Before giving oracles as gods, 
they drank an intoxicating liquor, and in the frenzy 
thus produced their wild words were received as the 
voice of the god.^ But examples of such temporary 
inspiration are so common in every part of the world 

1 Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, p. 35. 


and are now so familiar through books on ethnology, 
that it is needless to cite illustrations of the general 
principle/ It may be well, however, to refer to two 
particular modes of producing temporary inspiration, 
because they are perhaps less known than some others, 
and because we shall have occasion to refer to them 
later on. One of these modes of producing inspiration 
is by sucking the fresh blood of a sacrificed victim. In 
the temple of Apollo Diradiotes at Argos, a lamb was 
sacrificed by night once a month ; a woman, who had 
to observe a rule of chastity, tasted the blood of the 
lamb, and thus being inspired by the god she 
prophesied or divined.^ At Aegira in Achaea the 
priestess of Earth drank the fresh blood of a bull 
before she descended into the cave to prophesy."* In 
Southern India a devil-dancer "drinks the blood of 
the sacrifice, putting the throat of the decapitated goat 
to his mouth. Then, as if he had acquired new life, 
he begins to brandish his staff of bells, and to dance 
with a quick but wild unsteady step. Suddenly the 
afflatus descends. There is no mistaking that glare, 
or those frantic leaps. He snorts, he stares, he 
gyrates. The demon has now taken bodily possession 
of him ; and, though he retains the power of utterance 
and of motion, both are under the demon's control, 
and his separate consciousness is in abeyance. . . . 
The devil-dancer is now worshipped as a present 
deity, and every bystander consults him respecting his 
disease, his wants, the welfare of his absent relatives, 
the offerings to be made for the accomplishment of his 

1 See for examples E. B. Tylor, Pausanias (vii. 25, 13) mentions the 
Frimitive Culture,^ ii. 13 1 sqq. draught of bull's blood as an ordeal to 

2 Pausanias, ii. 24, I. ^rdroxos ek test the chastity of the priestess. Doubt- 
ToO diov yiveraL is the expression. less it was thought to serve both 

3 Pliny, NaL Hist, xxviii. 147. purposes. 


wishes, and, in short, respecting everything for which 
superhuman knowledge is supposed to be available." ^ 
At a festival of the Minahassa in northern Celebes, 
after a pig has been killed, the priest rushes furiously 
at it, thrusts his head into the carcass and drinks of 
the blood. Then he is dragged away from it by force 
and set on a chair, whereupon he begins to prophesy 
how the rice crop will turn out that year. A second 
time he runs at the carcass and drinks of the blood ; a 
second time he is forced into the chair and continues 
his predictions. It is thought there is a spirit in him 
which possesses the power of prophecy.^ At Rhetra, 
a great religious capital of the Western Slavs, the 
priest tasted the blood of the sacrificed oxen and sheep 
in order the better to prophesy." The true test of a 
Dainyal or diviner among some of the Hindoo Koosh 
tribes is to suck the blood from the neck of a decapi- 
tated goat.* The other mode of producing temporary 
inspiration, to which I shall here refer, is by means of a 
branch or leaves of a sacred tree. Thus in the Hindoo 
Koosh a fire is kindled with twigs of the sacred cedar ; 
and the Dainyal or sibyl, with a cloth over her head, 
inhales the thick pungent smoke till she is seized with 
convulsions and falls senseless to the ground. Soon 
she rises and raises a shrill chant, which is caught up 

1 Caldwell, "On demonolatiy in * Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindoo 
Southern India," Journal of the Koosh, p. 96. For other instances of 
Anthropological Society of Bombay, i. priests or representatives of the deity 
loi sq. drinking the warm blood of the victim, 

2 J. G. F. Riedel, " De Minahasa cp. Tijdschrift v. Nederlandsch Indie, 
in 1825," Tijdschrift V. Indischc Taal- 1849, p. 395; Oldfield, Sketches from 
Land-en Volkenkunde, xviii. 5 1 7 sq. Nipal, ii. 296 sq. ; Asiatic Researches, 
Cp, N. Graafland, De Minahassa, i. iv. 40, 41, 50, 52 (8vo. ed.) ; Paul 
122; Dumont D'Urville, Voyage autoiir Soleillet, KAfrique Occidentale, p. 123 
duMondeet a la recherche de La Perotise, sq. To snuff up the savour of the 
V. 443. sacrifice was similarly supposed to pro- 

^ F. J. Mone, Geschichte des Heiden- duce inspiration. Tertullian, Apologet, 

thums im n'67'dlichen Eziropa, i. 


and loudly repeated by her audience.^ So Apollo's 
prophetess ate the sacred laurel before she prophesied. - 
It is worth observing that many peoples expect the 
victim as well as the priest or prophet to give signs of 
Inspiration by convulsive movements of the body ; and 
if the animal remains obstinately steady, they esteem 
it unfit for sacrifice. Thus when the Yakuts sacrifice 
to an evil spirit, the beast must bellow and roll about, 
which is considered a token that the evil spirit has 
entered into it.^ Apollo's prophetess could give no 
oracles unless the victim to be sacrificed trembled in 
every limb when the wine was poured on its head. 
But for ordinary Greek sacrifices it was enough that 
the victim should shake its head ; to make it do so, 
water was poured on it.^ Many other peoples (Ton- 
quinese, Hindoos, Chuwash, etc.) have adopted the 
same test of a suitable victim ; they pour water or wine 
on its head ; if the animal shakes its head it is accepted 
for sacrifice ; if it does not, it is rejected.^ 

The person temporarily inspired is believed to 
acquire, not merely divine knowledge, but also, at 
least occasionally, divine power. In Cambodia, when 
an epidemic breaks out, the inhabitants of several 
villages unite and go with a band of music at their 
head to look for the man whom the local god is 

1 Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindoo Asiatic Studies, t^. \at;^\M\x\^\\, Tribes 
Koosh, p. 97. of the Hindoo Koosh, p. 131 ; Pallas, 

2 Lucian, Bis acciis., 1 ; Tzetzes, Reisen in verschiedenen Provinzen des 
Schol. ad Lycophr., 6. rtissischen Reiches, i. 91; Vambery, 

3 Vambery, Das Tiirkenvolk,^. 158. DasTiirkenvolk,'^. \%<); Erman, ^;r/i/'z/ 
* Plutarch, De defect, oracul. 46, 49. fitr wissenschaftliche Knnde von Russ- 
^ D. Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier und land, i. 377. When the Rao of Kachh 

der Ssabismus, ii. 37 ; Lettres edifiantes sacrifices a buffalo, water is sprinkled 

et ciirieuses, xvi. 230 sij. ; Panjab between its horns ; if it shakes its 

Notes and Queries, iii. No. 721 ; head, it is unsuitable ; if it nods its 

Journal of the Anthropological Society head, it is sacrificed. Panjab Notes 

of Bombay, i. 103; S. Mateer, The and Qnej-ies, i. No. 911. This is 

Land of Charity, 216; id.. Native Life probably a modern misinterpretation 

in Travancore, p. 94 ; A. C. Lyall, of the old custom. 



believed to have chosen for his temporary incarnation. 
When found, the man is taken to the altar of the god, 
where the mystery of incarnation takes place. Then 
the man becomes an object of veneration to his 
fellows, who implore him to protect the village against 
the plague.^ The image of Apollo at Hylae in Phocis 
was believed to impart superhuman strength. Sacred 
men, inspired by it, leaped down precipices, tore up 
huge trees by the roots, and carried them on their 
backs along the narrowest defiles."^ The feats per- 
formed by inspired dervishes belong to the same class. 

Thus far we have seen that the savage, failing to 
discern the limits of his ability to control nature, 
ascribes to himself and to all men certain powers which 
we should now call supernatural. Further, we have 
seen that over and above this general supernaturalism, 
some persons are supposed to be inspired for short 
periods by a divine spirit, and thus temporarily to enjoy 
the knowledge and power of the indwelling deity. 
From beliefs like these it is an easy step to the con- 
viction that certain men are permanently possessed by 
a deity, or in some other undefined way are endued 
with so high a degree of supernatural powers as to be 
ranked as gods and to receive the homage of prayer 
and sacrifice. Sometimes these human gods are re- 
stricted to purely supernatural or spiritual functions. 
Sometimes they exercise supreme political power in 
addition. In the latter case they are kings as well as 
gods, and the government is a theocracy. I shall give 
examples of both. 

In the Marquesas Islands there was a class of men 
who were deified in their life-time. They were sup- 

1 Moura, Le Royatime dii Catnbodge, \. i"]"] sq. ^ Pausanias, x. 32, 6. 


posed to wield a supernatural power over the elements ; 
they could give abundant harvests or smite the ground 
with barrenness ; and they could inflict disease or 
death. Human sacrifices were offered to them to avert 
their wrath. There were not many of them, at the 
most one or two in each island. They lived in mystic 
seclusion. Their powers were sometimes, but not 
always, hereditary. A missionary has described one of 
these human gods from personal observation. The 
god was a very old man who lived in a large house 
within an enclosure. In the house was a kind of altar, 
and on the beams of the house and on the trees round 
it were hung human skeletons, head down. No one 
entered the enclosure, except the persons dedicated to 
the service of the god ; only on days when human 
victims were sacrificed might ordinary people penetrate 
into the precinct. This human god received more 
sacrifices than all the other gods ; often he would sit on 
a sort of scaffold in front of his house and call for two 
or three human victims at a time. They were always 
brought, for the terror he inspired was extreme. He 
was invoked all over the island, and offerings were sent 
to him from every side.^ Again, of the South Sea 
Islands in general we are told that each island had a 
man who represented or personified the divinity. Such 
men were called gods, and their substance was con- 
founded with that of the deity. The man-god was 
sometimes the king himself; oftener he was a priest 
or subordinate chief- Tanatoa, King of Raiatea, was 
deified by a certain ceremony performed at the chief 
temple. "As one of the divinities of his subjects, 

1 Vincendon - Dumoulin et Desgraz, ^ Moeienhout, Forages aux Iks da 

lies Marquises, pp. 226, 240 sq. Grand Ocean, i. 479 ; Ellis, Polynes- 

ian Researches, iii. 94. 


therefore, the king was worshipped, consulted as an 
oracle and had sacrifices and prayers offered to him."^ 
This was not an exceptional case. The kings of the 
island regularly enjoyed divine honours, being deified 
at the time of their accession.- At his inauguration the 
king of Tahiti received a sacred girdle of red and 
yellow feathers, "which not only raised him to the 
highest earthly station, but identified him with their 
gods."^ The gods of Samoa generally appeared in 
animal form, but sometimes they were permanently 
incarnate in men, who gave oracles, received offerings 
(occasionally of human flesh), healed the sick, answered 
prayers, and so on.^ In regard to the old religion of the 
Fijians, and especially of the inhabitants of Somo- 
somo, it is said that " there appears to be no certain 
line of demarcation between departed spirits and gods, 
nor between gods and living men, for many of the 
priests and old chiefs are considered as sacred persons, 
and not a few of them will also claim to themselves the 
right of divinity. ' I am a god,' Tuikilakila would 
say; and he believed it too."^ In the Pelew Islands 
it is believed that every god can take possession of a 
man and speak through him. The possession may be 
either temporary or permanent ; in the latter case the 
chosen person is called a korong. The god is free in 
his choice, so the position of korong is not hereditary. 
After the death of a korong the god is for some time 
unrepresented, until he suddenly makes his appearance 
in a new Avatar. The person thus chosen gives signs 

^ Tyerman and Bennet, Journal of * Turner, Samoa, pp. 37, 48, 57, 58, 

Voyages atid Travels in the South Sea 59, 73. 

Islattds, China, India, etc., i. 524 ; ^ Hazlewood in Erskine's Cruise 

cp. p. 529 sq. a!iiO}ig the Islands of the Western 

-Tyerman and Bennet, op. cit. i. Pacific,'^, z^d sq. Cp. Wilkes's yVarra- 

529 sq. live of the U. S. Exploring Expedition, 

Y^xi,, Polynesian Rescarches,\\\. 10%. iii. 87. 



of the divine presence by behaving in a strange way ; 
he gapes, runs about, and performs a number of sense- 
less acts. At first people laugh at him, but his sacred 
mission is in time recognised, and he is invited to 
assume his proper position in the state. Generally 
this position is a distinguished one and confers on him 
a powerful influence over the whole community. In 
some of the islands the god is political sovereign of 
the land ; and hence his new incarnation, however 
humble his origin, is raised to the same high rank, and 
rules, as god and king, over all the other chiefs.^ In 
time of public calamity, as during war or pestilence, 
some of the Molucca Islanders used to celebrate a festi- 
val of heaven. If no good result followed, they bought 
a slave, took him at the next festival to the place of 
sacrifice, and set him on a raised place under a certain 
bamboo-tree. This tree represented heaven and had 
been honoured as its image at previous festivals. The 
portion of the sacrifice which had previously been 
offered to heaven was now given to the slave, who ate 
and drank it in the name and stead of heaven. Hence- 
forth the slave was well treated, kept for the festivals 
of heaven, and employed to represent heaven and 
receive the offerings in its name.- In Tonquin every 
village chooses its guardian spirit, often in the form of 
an animal, as a dog, tiger, cat, or serpent. Sometimes 
a living person is selected as patron-divinity. Thus a 
beggar persuaded the people of a village that he was 
their guardian spirit ; so they loaded him with honours 
and entertained him with their best.^ In India "every 

1 Kubary," Die Religion derPelauer," ^ jr, Valentyn, Oiid en nicitiu Oost- 

in Bastian's Allerlei aiis Volks-und Itidicn, iii. 7 sq. 

Menschenkunde, i. 30 sqq. ^ Bastian, Die Volker des ostlichen 

Asien, iv. 383. 


king is regarded as little short of a present god."^ 
The Indian law-book of Manu goes farther and says 
that "even an infant king must not be despised from 
an idea that he is a mere mortal ; for he is a great 
deity in human form."- There is said to be a sect in 
Orissa who worship the Queen of England as their 
chief divinity. And to this day in India all living 
persons remarkable for great strength or valour or for 
supposed miraculous powers run the risk of being 
worshipped as gods. Thus, a sect in the Punjaub 
worshipped a deity whom they called Nikkal Sen. 
This Nikkal Sen was no other than the redoubted 
General Nicholson, and nothing that the general could 
do or say damped the enthusiasm of his adorers. The 
more he punished them, the greater grew the religious 
awe with which they worshipped him.^ Amongst the 
Todas, a pastoral people of the Neilgherry Hills of 
Southern India, the dairy is a sanctuary, and the milk- 
man {pdldl) who attends to it is a god. On being 
asked whether the Todas salute the sun, one of these 
divine milkmen replied, "Those poor fellows do so, 
but I," tapping his chest, "I, a god ! why should I 
salute the sun ?" Every one, even his own father, pros- 
trates himself before the milkman, and no one would 
dare to refuse him anything. No human being, except 
another milkman, may touch him ; and he gives oracles 
to all who consult him, speaking with the voice of 
a god.^ 

The King of Iddah told the English officers of the 
Niger Expedition, "God made me after his own 

1 Monier Williams, Religious Life ^ Monier Williams, op. cit. p. 259 sq. 
and Thought in India, p. 259. * Marshall, Ti-aveh among the Todas, 

2 77^1? Laws of Manu, vii. 8, trans. pp. 136, 137; cp. pp. 141, 142; Metz, 
by G. Buhler. Tribes of the Neilgherry Hills, p. 1 9 sqq. 


image ; I am all the same as God ; and He appointed 
me a king."^ 

Sometimes, at the death of the human incarnation, 
the divine spirit transmigrates into another man. In the 
kingdom of Kaffa, in Eastern Africa, the heathen part 
of the people worship a spirit called Debce, to whom 
they offer prayer and sacrifice, and whom they invoke 
on all important occasions. This spirit is incarnate in 
the grand magician or pope, a person of great wealth 
and infiuence, ranking almost with the king, and wield- 
ing the spiritual, as the king wields the temporal, 
power. It happened that, shortly before the arrival of 
a Christian missionary in the kingdom, this African 
pope died, and the priests, fearing that the missionary 
would assume the position vacated by the deceased 
pope, declared that the Debce had passed into the king, 
who henceforth, uniting the spiritual with the temporal 
power, reigned as god and king." Before beginning to 
work at the salt-pans in a Laosian village, the workmen 
offer sacrifice to a local divinity. This divinity is 
incarnate in a woman and transmigrates at her death 
into another woman, ^ In Bhotan the spiritual head of 
the government is a person called the Dhurma Raja, 
who is supposed to be a perpetual incarnation of the 
deity. At his death the new incarnate god shows 
himself in an infant by the refusal of his mother's milk 
and a preference for that of a cow.^ The Buddhist 
Tartars believe in a great number of living Buddhas, 
who officiate as Grand Lamas at the head of the most 

^ Allen and Thomson, Narrative of ^ E. Aymonier, Azotes stir le Laos, 

the Expedition to the River Niger in p. 141 sq. 
1841, i. 288. 

2 G. Massaja, / jniei trentacinque ^ Robinson, Descriptive Accoimt of 

annidimissioneneir a/ta Etiopia {'Rome. Assam, p. 342 .f(/.; Asiatic KesearcJies, 

and Milan, 1888), v. 53 sq. xv. 146. 


important monasteries. When one of these Grand 
Lamas dies his disciples do not sorrow, for they know 
that he will soon reappear, being born in the form of 
an infant. Their only anxiety is to discover the place 
of his birth. If at this time they see a rainbow they 
take it as a sign sent them by the departed Lama to 
guide them to his cradle. Sometimes the divine infant 
himself reveals his identity. " I am the Grand Lama," 
he says, " the living Buddha of such and such a temple. 
Take me to my old monastery. I am its immortal 
head." In whatever way the birthplace of the Buddha 
is revealed, whether by the Buddha's own avowal or 
by the sign in the sky, tents are struck, and the joyful 
pilgrims, often headed by the king or one of the most 
illustrious of the royal family, set forth to find and 
bring home the infant god. Generally he is born in 
Tibet, the holy land, and to reach him the caravan has 
often to traverse the most frightful deserts. When at 
last they find the child they fall down and worship him. 
Before, however, he is acknowledged as the Grand 
Lama whom they seek he must satisfy them of his 
identity. He is asked the name of the monastery of 
which he claims to be the head, how far off it is, and 
how many monks live in it ; he must also describe the 
habits of the deceased Grand Lama and the manner of 
his death. Then various articles, as prayer-books, 
tea-pots, and cups, are placed before him, and he has 
to point out those used by himself in his previous life. 
If he does so without a mistake his claims are admitted, 
and he is conducted in triumph to the monastery.^ At 
the head of all the Lamas is the Dalai Lama of Lhasa, 
the Rome of Tibet. He is regarded as a living god 

^ Hue, Souvenirs (Tun Voyage dans la Tartaric et le Tliibd, i. 279 sqq. ed. 

44 THE DALAI LAMA chap. 

and at death his divine and immortal spirit is born 
again in a child. According to some accounts the 
mode of discovering the Dalai Lama is similar to the 
method, already described, of discovering an ordinary 
Grand Lama. Other accounts speak of an election 
by lot. Wherever he is born, the trees and plants, it 
is said, put forth green leaves ; at his bidding flowers 
bloom and springs of water rise ; and his presence 
diffuses heavenly blessings. His palace stands on a 
commanding height ; its gilded cupolas are seen spark- 
ling in the sunlight for miles.^ 

Issuing from the sultry valleys upon the lofty plateau 
of the Colombian Andes, the Spanish conquerors were 
astonished to find, in contrast to the savage hordes 
they had left in the sweltering jungles below, a people 
enjoying a fair degree of civilisation, practising agri- 
culture, and living under a government which Humboldt 
has compared to the theocracies of Tibet and Japan. 
These were the Chibchas, Muyscas, or Mozcas, divided 
into two kingdoms, with capitals at Bogota and Tunja, 
but united apparently in spiritual allegiance to the high 
pontiff of Sogamozo or Iraca. By a long and ascetic 
novitiate, this ghostly ruler was reputed to have 
acquired such sanctity that the waters and the rain 
obeyed him, and the weather depended on his will." 
Weather kings are common in Africa. Thus the 

1 Hue, op. cit. ii. 279, 347 sq. ; text shows that he is the great Lama of 

Meiners, Geschkhte der Religioneu, i. Lhasa. 

335 sq. ; Georgi, Beschreihing aller ^ Alex. von. Humboldt, Researches 

Nationen des Rnssischen Reichs, p. 415; concerning the Institutions and Monu- 

A. Erman, Travels in Siberia, ii. 303 ments of the Ancient Inhabitants of 

sqq. ; Journal of the Roy. Geogr. Soc, America, ii. 106 sqq.; Waitz, Anthro- 

xxxviii. (1868), 168, 169; Proceed- fologic der N'atiu-n'olkcr, iv. 352 sqq.; 

ings of the Roy. Geogr. Soc. N.S. J. G. Miiller, Geschichte der Amerikan- 

vii. (1885) 67. In \h& Journal Roy. ischen U7-religionen,-p. /^2,o sq.;'Mz.tims, 

Geogr. Soc, I.e., the Lama in question Zur Ethnographic Ainoikas, p. 455 ; 

is called the Lama Guru ; but the con- Bastian, Die Cultiirldnder des alien 

Amerika, ii. 204 sq. 



Waganda of Central Africa believe in a god of Lake 
Nyanza, who sometimes takes up his abode in a man 
or woman. The incarnate god is much feared by all 
the people, including the king and the chiefs. He is 
consulted as an oracle ; by his word he can inflict or 
heal sickness, withhold rain, and cause famine. Large 
presents are made him when his advice is sought.^ 
Often the king himself is supposed to control the 
weather. The king of Loango is honoured by his 
people "as though he were a god; and he is called 
Sambee and Pango, which mean god. They believe 
that he can let them have rain when he likes ; and 
once a year, in December, which is the time they want 
rain, the people come to beg of him to grant it to 
them." On this occasion the kino; standing on his 
throne, shoots an arrow into the air, which is supposed 
to bring on rain." Much the same is said of the king 
of Mombaza.^ The king of Quiteva, in Eastern Africa, 
ranks with the deity ; " indeed, the Caffres acknowledge 
no other gods than their monarch, and to him they 
address those prayers which other nations are wont to 
prefer to heaven. . . . Hence these unfortunate beings, 
under the persuasion that their king is a deity, 
exhaust their utmost means and ruin themselves in 
gifts to obtain with more facility what they need. 
Thus, prostrate at his feet, they implore of him, when 
the weather long continues dry, to intercede with 
heaven that they may have rain ; and when too much 

1 R. W. Felkin, "Notes on the Travels, xvi. 330; Proyart, "History 

Waganda Tribe of Central Africa," in of Loango, Kakongo, and other King- 

Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edin- doms in Africa," in Pinkerton, xvi. 

burgh, xiii. 762; C. T. Wilson and 577; V>'^^\i&x, Descriptioji de VAfriqiie, 

'R.^.¥e\km, Uganda and the Egvptian p. 335. 
Soudan, 1. 206. 

'TheStrangeAdventures of Andrew ^ Ogilby, Africa, p. 615; Dapper, 

Battel," in Pinkerton's Voyages and of. cit. p. 400. 


rain has fallen, that they may have fair weather ; thus, 
also, in case of winds, storms, and everything, they 
would either deprecate or implore."^ Amongst the 
Barotse, a tribe on the upper Zambesi, " there is an 
old, but waning belief, that a chief is a demigod, and in 
heavy thunderstorms the Barotse flock to the chief's 
yard for protection from the lightning. I have been 
greatly distressed at seeing them fall on their knees 
before the chief, entreating him to open the water-pots 
of heaven and send rain upon their gardens. . . . The 
king's servants declare themselves to be invincible, 
because they are the servants of God (meaning ^/ic 
kinz)y - The chief of Mowat, New Guinea, is believed 
to have the power of affecting the growth of crops for 
good or ill, and of coaxing the dugong and turtle to 
come from all parts and allow themselves to be taken. '^ 
Amongst the Antaymours of Madagascar the king 
is responsible for the growth of the crops and for every 
misfortune that befalls the people."^ In many places the 
king is punished if rain does not fall and the crops do 
not turn out well. Thus, in some parts of West 
Africa, when prayers and offerings presented to the 
king have failed to procure rain, his subjects bind him 
with ropes and take him by force to the grave of his 
forefathers, that he may obtain from them the needed 
rain.^ It appears that the Scythians also, when food 
was scarce, put their king in bonds.*^ The Banjars in 

1 Dos Santos, " History of Eastern ^ Labat, Relation hisioriqiie de 
Ethiopia," in Pinkerton, Voyages and FEthiopie Occidcntale, ii. 172-176. 
Travels, xvi. 682, 687 sq. " Schol. on Apollonius Rhod. ii. 

2 F. S. Arnot, Garengauze ; or, 1248. Kat 'H/365w/)oy l^vwy irept twv Sec- 
Seven Years^ Pioneer Mission IVork in fiuf rod npofXTjOduis ravra. Eivat yap 
Central Africa, London, N.D. (preface ainov 'ZkvQwv j3aai\€a (pTjcri ■ Kal fxr] 
dated March 1889), p. 78. dvi'd/j.ei'ov wapix^'-v toIs VTrrjKoois to, 

•* MS. notes by E. Beardmore. iTnrrjSeLa, 8ia top KaXovpievov 'Kerbv 

■* Waitz, Anthropologic der Nattir- -woTa^hv kwiKKv'^uv ra TreOi'a, oedyjuai 
volker, ii. 439. vt^o twv ^Kvduv. 


West Africa ascribe to their king the power of causing 
rain or fine weather. So long as the weather is fine 
they load him with presents of grain and cattle. But 
if long drought or rain threatens to spoil the crops, 
they insult and beat him till the weather changes.^ 
When the harvest fails or the surf on the coast is too 
heavy to allow of fishing, the people of Loango accuse 
their king of a " bad heart " and depose him.- On the 
Pepper Coast the high priest or Bodio is responsible 
for the health of the community, the fertility of the 
earth, and the abundance of fish in the sea and rivers ; 
and if the country suffers in any of these respects the 
Bodio is deposed from his office.^ So the Burgundians 
of old deposed their king if the crops failed.'^ Some 
peoples have gone further and killed their kings in 
times of scarcity. Thus, in the time of the Swedish 
king Domalde a mighty famine broke out, which lasted 
several years, and could be stayed by the blood neither 
of beasts nor of men. So, in a great popular assembly 
held at Upsala, the chiefs decided that king Domalde 
himself was the cause of the scarcity and must be 
sacrificed for good seasons. So they slew him and 
smeared with his blood the altars of the gods. Again, 
we are told that the Swedes always attributed good or 
bad crops to their kings as the cause. Now, in the 
reign of King Olaf, there came dear times and famine, 
and the people thought that the fault was the king's, 
because he was sparing in his sacrifices. So, muster- 
ing an army, they marched against him, surrounded 

1 H.Hecquard, /'£■«<'«« ^/t';'AV«/f?<«^ 3 j Leighton Wilson, IVesi A/rika, 

in das Imiere vojt IVesi Afrika, p. 78. p. 93 (German translation). 

- Bastian, Die Deutsche Expedition * Ammianus Marcellinus, xxviii. 5, 

an der Loango-Kiiste, i. 354, ii. 230. 14. 


his dwelling, and burned him in it, "giving him to 
Odin as a sacrifice for good crops." ^ In 1814, a 
pestilence having broken out among the reindeer 
of the Chukch, the Shamans declared that the 
beloved chief Koch must be sacrificed to the angry 
gods ; so the chiefs own son stabbed him with a 
dagger."- On the coral island of Niue, or Savage 
Island, in the South Pacific, there formerly reigned a 
line of kings. But as the kings were also high priests, 
and were supposed to make the food grow, the people 
became angry with them in times of scarcity and killed 
them ; till at last, as one after another was killed, no 
one would be king, and the monarchy came to an end.^ 
As in these cases the divine kings, so in ancient Egypt 
the divine beasts, were responsible for the course of 
nature. When pestilence and other calamities had 
fallen on the land, in consequence of a long and severe 
drought, the priests took the sacred animals secretly 
by night, and threatened them, but if the evil did not 
abate they slew the beasts.^ 

From this survey of the religious position occupied 
by the king in rude societies we may infer that the 
claim to divine and supernatural powers put forward 
by the monarchs of great historical empires like those 
of Egypt, Mexico, and Peru, was not the simple out- 
come of inflated vanity or the empty expression of a 
grovelling adulation ; it was merely a survival and 
extension of the old savage apotheosis of living kings. 

1 Snorro Staileson, Chronicle of the Russland," in Zeitschrift fiir Deutsche 

Kings of Noiivay (trans, by S. Laing), Mythologie und Sitteithmde, iv. 162; 

saga i. chs. 18, 47. Cp. Liebrecht, Liebrecht, of. cit., p. 15. 

Ztir Volkskiinde, p. 7 ; Scheffer, Ufsalia, , 

p_ j,-_ " Turner, Samoa, p. 304 j^y. 

^ C. Russwurm, " Aberglaube in ^ Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 73. 



Thus, for example, as children of the Sun the Incas of 
Peru were revered like gods ; they could do no wrong, 
and no one dreamed of offending against the person, 
honour, or property of the monarch or of any of the 
royal race. Hence, too, the Incas did not, like most 
people, look on sickness as an evil. They considered 
it a messenger sent from their father the Sun to call his 
son to come and rest with him in heaven. Therefore the 
usual words in which an Inca announced his approach- 
ing end were these : " My father calls me to come and 
rest with him." They would not oppose their father's 
will by offering sacrifice for recovery, but openly 
declared that he had called them to his rest.^ The 
Mexican kings at their accession took an oath that they 
would make the sun to shine, the clouds to give rain, 
the rivers to flow, and the earth to bring forth fruits 
in abundance.^ By Chinese custom the emperor is 
deemed responsible if the drought be at all severe, and 
many are the self-condemnatory edicts on this subject 
published in the pages of the Peking Gazette. How- 
ever it is rather as a high priest than as a god that the 
Chinese emperor bears the blame ; for in extreme cases 
he seeks to remedy the evil by personally offering 
prayers and sacrifices to heaven." The Parthian 
monarchs of the Arsacid house styled themselves 
brothers of the sun and moon and were worshipped as 
deities. It was esteemed sacrilege to strike even a 
private member of the Arsacid family in a brawl. ^ 
The kings of Egypt were deified in their lifetime, and 
their worship was celebrated in special temples and by 

1 Garcilasso de la Vega, First Part - Bancroft, Native Races of the 

of tlie Royal Commentaries of the Yncas, Pacific States, ii. 146. 
lak. ii. chs. 8 and 15 (vol. i. pp. 131, ^ 'Dennys, Folk-tore of China, p. 125. 

155, Markham's Trans.) * Ammianus Marcellinus, xxiii. 6, 

§ s and 6. 
VOL. I E . 


special priests. Indeed the worship of the kings 
sometimes cast that of the gods into the shade. Thus 
in the reign of Merenra a high official declared that 
he had built many holy places in order that the spirits 
of the king, the ever-living Merenra, might be in- 
voked "more than all the gods."^ The King of 
Egypt seems to have shared with the sacred animals 
the blame of any failure of the crops.^ He was 
addressed as " Lord of heaven, lord of earth, sun, life 
of the whole world, lord of time, measurer of the sun's 
course, Tum for men, lord of well-being, creator of the 
harvest, maker and fashioner of mortals, bestower of 
breath upon all men, giver of life to all the host of 
gods, pillar of heaven, threshold of the earth, weigher 
of the equipoise of both worlds, lord of rich gifts, in- 
creaser of the corn " etc.^ Yet, as we should expect, 
the exalted powers thus ascribed to the king differed 
in degree rather than in kind from those which every 
Egyptian claimed for himself. Tiele observes that 
"as every good man at his death became Osiris, as 
every one in danger or need could by the use of magic 
sentences assume the form of a deity, it is quite com- 
prehensible how the king, not only after death, but 
already during his life, was placed on a level with the 
deity." ^ 

Thus it appears that the same union of sacred 

1 C. p. Tiele, History of the * Tiele, History of the Egyptian 
Egyptian Religion, p. 103 sq. On the Religion, p. 105. The Babylonian and 
worship of the kings see also E. Meyer, Assyrian kings seem also to have been 
Geschichte des Altertnms, i. § 52 ; A. regarded as gods ; at least the oldest 
Erman, Aegypten laid aegyptisches Leben names of the kings on the monuments 
im Alteriitm, p. 91 sqq.; V. von are preceded by a star, the mark for 
?,\.x2i\\%'i ViwA Q2iXVi^Xi, Die altiigyptischen "god." But there is no trace in 
Gotter und G'dttersagen, p. 467 sqq. Babylon and Assyria of temples and 

2 Ammianus Marcellinus, xxviii. 5, priests for the worship of the kings. 
14 ; Plutarch, Zr/j <>/ (9«V?V, 73. See Tiele, Babylonisch - Assyrische 

3 V. von Strauss und Carnen, op. cit. Geschichte, p. 492 sq. 
p. 470. 


functions with a royal title which meets us in the King 
of the Wood at Nemi, the Sacrificial King at Rome and 
the King Archon at Athens, occurs frequently outside 
the limits of classical antiquity and is a common feature 
of societies at all stages from barbarism to civilisation. 
Further, it appears that the royal priest is often a king 
in fact as well as in name, swaying the sceptre as well 
as the crosier. All this confirms the tradition of the 
origin of the titular and priestly kings in the republics 
of ancient Greece and Italy. At least by showing 
that the combination of spiritual and temporal power, 
of which Graeco- Italian tradition preserved the 
memory, has actually existed in many places, we have 
obviated any suspicion of improbability that might 
have attached to the tradition. Therefore we may 
now fairly ask. May not the King of the Wood have 
had an origin like that which a probable tradition 
assigns to the Sacrificial King of Rome and the King 
Archon of Athens ? In other words, may not his 
predecessors in office have been a line of kings whom 
a republican revolution stripped of their political power, 
leaving them only their religious functions and the 
shadow of a crown ? There are at least two reasons 
for answering this question in the negative. One 
reason is drawn from the abode of the priest of Nemi ; 
the other from his title, the King of the Wood. If 
his predecessors had been kings in the ordinary 
sense, he would surely have been found residing, like 
the fallen kings of Rome and Athens, in the city of 
which the sceptre had passed from him. This city 
must have been Aricia, for there was none nearer. 
But Aricia, as we have seen, was three miles off from 
his forest sanctuary by the lake shore. If he reigned, 
it was not in the city, but in the greenwood. Again 



his title, King of the Wood, hardly allows us to 
suppose that he had ever been a king in the common 
sense of the word. More likely he was a king of 
nature, and of a special side of nature, namely, the 
woods from which he took his title. If we could find 
instances of what we may call departmental kings of 
nature, that is of persons supposed to rule over 
particular elements or aspects of nature, they would 
probably present a closer analogy to the King of the 
Wood than the divine kings we have been hitherto 
considering, whose control of nature is general rather 
than special. Instances of such departmental kings 
are not wanting. 

On a hill at Bomma (the mouth of the Congo) 
dwells Namvulu Vumu, King of the Rain and Storm. ^ 
Of some of the tribes on the Upper Nile we are told 
that they have no kings in the common sense ; the 
only persons whom they acknowledge as such are the 
Kines of the Rain, Mata Kodou, who are credited 
with the power of giving rain at the proper time, that 
is in the rainy season. Before the rains begin to fall 
at the end of March the country is a parched and arid 
desert ; and the cattle, which form the people's chief 
wealth, perish for lack of grass. So, when the end of 
March draws on, each householder betakes himself to 
the King of the Rain and offers him a cow that he 
may make the rain to fall soon. If no shower 
falls, the people assemble and demand that the 
king shall give them rain ; and if the sky still 
continues cloudless, they rip up his belly in which 
he is believed to keep the storms. Amongst 
the Bari tribe one of these Rain Kings made rain 

1 Bastian, Die Deutsche Expedition an der Loango-Kiiste, ii. 230. 


by sprinkling water on the ground out of a hand- 

Among tribes on the outskirts of Abyssinia a 
similar office exists and has been thus described by an 
observer. " The priesthood of the Alfai, as he is 
called by the Barea and Kunama, is a remarkable one ; 
he is believed to be able to make rain. This office 
formerly existed among the Algeds and appears to be 
still common to the Nuba negroes. The Alfai of the 
Bareas, who is also consulted by the northern Kunama, 
lives near Tembadere on a mountain alone with his 
family. The people bring him tribute in the form of 
clothes and fruits, and cultivate for him a large field of 
his own. He is a kind of king, and his office passes 
by inheritance to his brother or sister's son. He is 
supposed to conjure down rain and to drive away the 
locusts. But if he disappoints the people's expectation 
and a orreat drouc^ht arises in the land, the Alfai is stoned 
to death, and his nearest relations are obliged to cast 
the first stone at him. When we passed through the 
country, the office of Alfai was still held by an old 
man ; but I heard that rain-making had proved too 
dangerous for him and that he had renounced his 
office." - 

In the backwoods of Cambodia live two mysterious 
sovereigns known as the King of the Fire and the 
King of the Water. Their fame is spread all over the 
south of the great Indo-Chinese peninsula ; but only a 
faint echo of it has reached the West. No European, 
so far as is known, has ever seen them ; and their very 
existence might have passed for a fable, were it not 

^ " Excursion de M.Brun-Rollet dans pt. ii. p. 421 sqq. 
la region superieure du Nil," BiiUdin '■^ W. INIunzinger, Ostafrikaiiische 

de la Socicte de Geogmphie, Paris, 1852, Studien, p. 474 (Schaffhausen, 1864). 


that till a few years ago communications were 
regularly maintained between them and the King of 
Cambodia, who year by year exchanged presents with 
them. The Cambodian gifts were passed from tribe 
to tribe till they reached their destination ; for no 
Cambodian would essay the long and perilous journey. 
The tribe amongst whom the Kings of Fire and 
Water reside is the Chreais or Jaray, a race with 
European features but a sallow complexion, inhabiting 
the forest- clad mountains and high plateaux which 
separate Cambodia from Annam. Their royal 
functions are of a purely mystic or spiritual order ; 
they have no political authority ; they are simple 
peasants, living by the sweat of their brow and the 
offerings of the faithful. According to one account 
they live in absolute solitude, never meeting each other 
and never seeing a human face. They inhabit 
successively seven towers perched upon seven 
mountains, and every year they pass from one tower 
to another. People come furtively and cast within 
their reach what is needful for their subsistence. The 
kingship lasts seven years, the time necessary to 
inhabit all the towers successively ; but many die 
before their time is out. The offices are hereditary 
in one or (according to others) two royal families, who 
enjoy high consideration, have revenues assigned to 
them, and are exempt from the necessity of tilling the 
ground. But naturally the dignity is not coveted, and 
when a vacancy occurs, all eligible men (they must be 
strong and have children) flee and hide themselves. 
Another account, admitting the reluctance of the 
hereditary candidates to accept the crown, does not 
countenance the report of their hermit-like seclusion 
in the seven towers. For it represents the people 


as prostrating themselves before the mystic kings 
whenever they appear in pubHc, it being thought that 
a terrible hurricane would burst over the country if 
this mark of homage were omitted. 

The same report says that the Fire King, the 
more important of the two, and whose supernatural 
powers have never been questioned, officiates at 
marriages, festivals, and sacrifices in honour of the 
Yan. On these occasions a special place is set 
apart for him ; and the path by which he ap- 
proaches is spread with white cotton cloths. A 
reason for confining the royal dignity to the same 
family is that this family is in possession of certain 
famous talismans which would lose their virtue or 
disappear if they passed out of the family. These 
talismans are three : the fruit of a creeper called 
Cui, gathered ages ago but still fresh and green ; 
a rattan, also very old and still not dry ; lastly a 
sword containing a Yan or spirit, who guards 
it constantly and works miracles with it. To 
this wondrous brand sacrifices of buffaloes, pigs, 
fowls, and ducks are offered for rain. It is kept 
swathed in cotton and silk ; and amongst the annual 
presents sent by the King of Cambodia were rich 
stuffs to wrap the sacred sword. 

In return the Kings of Fire and Water sent him 
a huge wax candle and two calabashes, one full of 
rice and the other of sesame. The candle bore the 
impress of the Fire King's middle finger. Probably 
the candle was thought to contain the seed of fire, 
which the Cambodian monarch thus received once 
a year fresh from the Fire King himself The holy 
candle was kept for sacred uses. On reaching the 
capital of Cambodia it was entrusted to the Brah- 


mans, who laid it up beside the regaha, and with 
the wax made tapers which were burned on the 
altars on solemn days. As the candle was the 
special gift of the Fire King, we may conjecture 
that the rice and sesame were the special gift of 
the Water King. The latter was doubtless king of 
rain as well as of water, and the fruits of the earth 
were boons conferred by him on men. In times of 
calamity, as during plague, floods, and war, a little 
of this sacred rice and sesame was scattered on the 
ground "to appease the wrath of the maleficent 
spirits." ^ 

These, then, are examples of what I have called 
departmental kings of nature. But it is a far cry to 
Italy from the forests of Cambodia and the sources of 
the Nile. And though Kings of Rain, Water and 
Fire have been found, we have still to discover a King 
of the Wood to match the Arician priest who bore that 
title. Perhaps we shall find him nearer home. 

§ 4. — Tree - wo7^ship 

In the religious history of the Aryan race in 
Europe the worship of trees has played an im- 
portant part. Nothing could be more natural. For 
at the dawn of history Europe was covered with 
immense primeval forests, in which the scattered 
clearings must have appeared like islets in an ocean 
of green. Down to the first century before our 
era the Hercynian forest stretched eastward from 

1 J. Moura, Le Royaiime du Cam- chine Fraiifaise, Excursions et Recojt- 

bodge, i. 432-436; Aymonier, "Notes naissances. No. 16, p. 172 sq. ; id., 

sur les coutumes et croyances supersti- Notes siir le Laos, p. 60. 
tieuses des Cambodgiens," in Cochin- 


the Rhine for a distance at once vast and unknown ; 
Germans whom Caesar questioned had travelled for 
two months through it without reaching the end.^ 
In our own country the wealds of Kent, Surrey, and 
Sussex are remnants of the great forest of Anderida, 
which once clothed the whole of the south eastern 
portion of the island. Westward it seems to have 
stretched till it joined another forest that extended 
from Hampshire to Devon. In the reign of Henry 

II the citizens of London still hunted the wild bull 
and the boar in the forest of Hampstead. Even 
under the later Plantagenets the royal forests were 
sixty-eight in number. In the forest of Arden it 
was said that down to modern times a squirrel 
might leap from tree to tree for nearly the whole 
length of Warwickshire.^ The excavation of pre- 
historic pile-villages in the valley of the Po has 
shown that long before the rise and probably the 
foundation of Rome the north of Italy was covered 
with dense forests of elms, chestnuts, and especially 
of oaks.^ Archaeology is here confirmed by history ; 
for classical writers contain many references to 
Italian forests which have now disappeared.'^ In 
Greece the woods of the present day are a mere 
fraction of those which clothed great tracts in antiquity, 
and which at a more remote epoch may have spanned 
the Greek peninsula from sea to sea.^ 

From an examination of the Teutonic words for 
"temple" Grimm has made it probable that amongst 

1 Caesar, Bell. Gall. vi. 25. ^ H. Nissen, Italische Landeskiinde, 

2 Elton, Origins of English History, P' 43^ ^'I'l- 

pp. 3, xodsq., 224. . Neumann und Partsch, Physika- 

3 W. Ilelbig, Die Italiker in der lische Geographie von GriecJimland, 
Poebetie, p. 25 sq. p. 357 sqq. 

58 TREE- WORSHIP chap, 

the Germans the oldest sanctuaries were natural woods.^ 
However this may be, tree-worship is well attested 
for all the great European families of the Aryan stock. 
Amongst the Celts the oak-worship of the Druids is 
familiar to every one.- Sacred groves were common 
among the ancient Germans, and tree-worship is hardly 
extinct amongst their descendants at the present day.'^ 
At Upsala, the old religious capital of Sweden, there 
was a sacred grove in which every tree was regarded 
as divine/ Amongst the ancient Prussians (a Slavon- 
ian people) the central feature of religion was the 
reverence for the sacred oaks, of which the chief stood 
at Romove, tended by a hierarchy of priests who kept 
up a perpetual fire of oak-wood in the holy grove.'^ 
The Lithuanians were not converted to Christianity 
till towards the close of the fourteenth century, and 
amongst them at the date of their conversion the wor- 
ship of trees was prominent.*^ Proofs of the prevalence 
of tree-worship in ancient Greece and Italy are abun- 
dant' Nowhere, perhaps, in the ancient world was 
this antique form of religion better preserved than in 
the heart of the great metropolis itself. In the Forum, 
the busy centre of Roman life, the sacred fig-tree of 
Romulus was worshipped down to the days of the 
empire, and the withering of its trunk was enough to 
spread consternation through the city.^ Again, on the 

1 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie,^ i. p. 79 ; Hartknoch, Alt - mid Neues 
C3 sqq Pr ens sen, p. 116 sqq. 

2 The locus classicus is Pliny, Nat. ^ ' Mathias Michov, '; De Sarmatia 

Mst. xvi. § 249 sqq. A^'^"^ ^'^"^ .^"'■°P^^' ^"5'f "' 

^^ . 7-e(^ioimm ac tnsiilai-um veterttms incog- 

3 Gnmm, D. M. 1. 56 sqq. nitarum (Paris, 1532), pp. 455 -^'7- 45^ 
* Adam of Bremen, Descriptio Instil. [wrongly numbered 445, 446] ; Martin 

Aquil. p. 27, Cromer, De origine et i-ebus gestis Polo- 

^ "Prisca antiquorum Prutenorum wwv/w (Basel, 15.68), p. 241. 

religio," in Respublica sive Status Regni ' See Botticher, De?- Baumkultiis der 

Poloiiiae, Liticaniae, Prussiae, livoniae, IlcUencn. 

etc. (Elzevir, 1627), p. 321 j-^. ;Dusburg, ^ Pliny, Nat. Hist. xv. § 77 ; Taci- 

Chronicon Prussiae, ed. Hartknoch, tus. Ami. xiii. 58. 


slope of the Palatine Hill grew a cornel-tree which 
was esteemed one of the most sacred objects in Rome. 
Whenever the tree appeared to a passer-by to be 
drooping, he set up a hue and cry which was echoed by 
the people in the street, and soon a crowd might be 
seen running from all sides with buckets of water, as if 
(says Plutarch) they were hastening to put out a fire.^ 

But it is necessary to examine in some detail the 
notions on which tree-worship is based. To the savage 
the world in general is animate, and trees are no excep- 
tion to the rule. He thinks that they have souls like 
his own and he treats them accordingly. Thus the 
Wanika in Eastern Africa fancy that every tree and 
especially every cocoa-nut tree has its spirit; "the 
destruction of a cocoa-nut tree is regarded as equi- 
valent to matricide, because that tree gives them life 
and nourishment, as a mother does her child."' Siamese 
monks, believing that there are souls everywhere and 
that to destroy anything whatever is forcibly to dis- 
possess a soul, will not break a branch of a tree "as 
they will not break the arm of an innocent person." ^ 
These monks, of course, are Buddhists. But Buddhist 
animism is not a philosophical theory. It is simply a 
common savage dogma incorporated in the system of 
an historical religion. To suppose with Benfey and 
others that the theories of animism and transmigration 
current among rude peoples of Asia are derived from 
Buddhism is to reverse the facts. Buddhism in this 
respect borrowed from savagery, not savagery from 
Buddhism. Again, the Dyaks ascribe souls to trees 
and do not dare to cut down an old tree. In some 

■^ Plutarcli, Romnhis, 20. teen Years' Residence in Eastern Africa, 

p. 198. 
- J. L. Krapf, Travels, Researches, ^ Loubere, Historical Relation of the 

and Ulissionaiy Labours dtn-itigan Eigh- Kingdom of Si am, p. 126. 


places, when an old tree has been blown down, they 
set it up, smear it with blood, and deck it with 
flags "to appease the .soul of the tree."^ People 
in Congo place calabashes of palm-wine at the foot of 
certain trees for the trees to drink when they are 
thirsty." In India shrubs and trees are formally 
married to each other or to idols." In the North 
West Provinces of India a marriage ceremony is 
performed in honour of a newly -planted orchard ; a 
man holding the Salagram represents the bride- 
groom, and another holding the sacred Tulsi {Ocym^tm 
sanchim) represents the bride.^ On Christmas Eve 
German peasants used to tie fruit-trees together with 
straw ropes to make them bear fruit, saying that the 
trees were thus married.^ 

In the Moluccas when the clove -trees are in 
blossom they are treated like pregnant women. No 
noise must be made near them ; no light or fire must 
be carried past them at night ; no one must approach 
them with his hat on, but must uncover his head. 
These precautions are observed lest the tree should 
be frightened and bear no fruit, or should drop its 
fruit too soon, like the untimely delivery of a woman 
who has been frightened in her pregnancy.*^ So when 
the paddy (rice) is in bloom the Javanese say it is 
pregnant and make no noises (fire no guns, etc.) near 

1 Hupe " Over de godsdienst, zeden, Races of the North Western Provinces 
enz. der Dajakker's" in Tijdschrift voor of India, i. 233. 

Neh-land's Indie, 1846, dl. iii. 158. ^ Die gestriegelte Rockenphilosophie 

(Chemnitz, 1759), p. 239 sq. ; U. Jahn, 

2 Merolla, "Voyage to Congo," in ^/^ deutsche Opfergebrdiiche bei Acker- 
Pinkerton's Voyages and Ti-avels, xvi. i^ji und Viehzucht, p. 214 sqq. 

236. c Van Schmid, " Aanteekeningen, 

3Monier Williams, Religious life nopens de zeden, gewoonten en gebrui- 

J ^1 j^ ■ T J- ,, ken, etc., der bevolking van de eilanden 

and Thottmt tn India, p. 334 sq. ^, ' , „ • t--- , , -r, at " 

,b r JJT I baparoea, etc. ni Tijdschrift v. Neer- 

* Sir Henry M. Elliot and J. Beames, land's Lidie, 1843, dl. ii, 605 ; Bastian, 

Memoirs on the History etc. of the Indonesien, i. 156. 


the field, fearing that if they did so the crop would be 
all straw and no grain.^ In Orissa, also, growing rice 
is " considered as a pregnant woman, and the same 
ceremonies are observed with regard to It as in the 
case of human females," - 

Conceived as animate, trees are necessarily sup- 
posed to feel injuries done to them. When an oak 
is being felled " it gives a kind of shriekes or groanes, 
that may be heard a mile off, as if it were the genius 
of the oake lamenting. E. Wyld, Esq., hath heard it 
severall times." ^ The Ojebways "very seldom cut 
down green or living trees, from the idea that it puts 
them to pain, and some of their medicine-men profess 
to have heard the wailing of the trees under the axe." * 
Old peasants in some parts of Austria still believe that 
forest-trees are animate, and will not allow an incision 
to be made in the bark without special cause ; they 
have heard from their fathers that the tree feels the 
cut not less than a wounded man his hurt. In felling 
a tree they beg its pardon.' So in Jarkino the wood- 
man craves pardon of the tree he cuts down.*' Again, 
when a tree is cut it is thought to bleed. Some 
Indians dare not cut a certain plant, because there 
comes out a red juice which they take for the blood 
of the plant.^ In Samoa there was a grove of trees 
which no one dared cut. Once some strangers tried 
to do so, but blood flowed from the tree, and the sacri- 
legious strangers fell ill and died.^ Till I855 there 
was a sacred larch -tree at Nauders, in the Tyrol, 

1 Van Hoevell, Ambon en meer ^ A. Peter, Volksthiitnliches aits Oster- 
hcpaaldelijk de Oeliasers, p. 62. rekhisch-Schlesien, ii. 30. 

2 The Itidia7i Antiquary, i. 170. " Bastian, 7«fli3«if«£«, i. I54;cp. /</., 
^ J. Aubrey, Retnaines of Gentilisme, Die l^olker des dstlichen Asien, ii. 457 

p. 247. sq., iii. 251 sq., iv. 42 sq. 

* Peter Jones's History of the Ojeb- ^ Loubere, Siam, p. 126. 

way Indians^ p. 104. * Turner, Samoa, p. 63. 


which was thought to bleed whenever it was cut ; 
moreover the steel was supposed to penetrate the 
woodman's body to the same depth that it penetrated 
the tree, and the wound on the tree and on the man's 
body healed together/ 

Sometimes it is the souls of the dead which are 
believed to animate the trees. The Dieyerie tribe of 
South Australia regard as very sacred certain trees, 
which are supposed to be their fathers transformed ; 
hence they will not cut the trees down, and protest 
against the settlers doing so." Some of the Philippine 
Islanders believe that the souls of their forefathers are 
in certain trees, which they therefore spare. If obliged 
to fell one of these trees they excuse themselves to it 
by saying that it was the priest who made them fell it.^ 
In an Annamite story an old fisherman makes an in- 
cision in the trunk of a tree which has drifted ashore ; 
but blood flows from the cut, and it appears that an 
empress with her three daughters, who had been 
cast into the sea, are embodied in the tree.'* 
The story of Polydorus will occur to readers of 

In these cases the spirit is viewed as incorporate in 
the tree ; it animates the tree and must suffer and die 
with it. But, according to another and no doubt later 
view, the tree is not the body, but merely the abode of 
the tree-spirit, which can quit the injured tree as men 
quit a dilapidated house. Thus when the Pelew 
Islanders are felling a tree, they conjure the spirit of 

1 Mannhardt, Baumkultiis, p. 35 sq. Mittheilungen der Wiener Geogr, Gesell- 

^ Native Tribes of South Australia, schaft, 1882, p. 165 sq. 

p. 280. * Landes, " Contes et legendes anna- 

^ Blumentritt, "Der Ahnencultus mites," No. 9, in Cochinchine Fratz- 

und die religiosen Anschauungen der caise. Excursions et Reconnaissances, 

Malaien des Philippinen-Archipels," in No. 20, p. 310. 


the tree to leave it and settle on another.^ The Padams 
of Assam think that when a child is lost it has been 
stolen by the spirits of the wood. So they retaliate 
on the spirits by cutting down trees till they find the 
child. The spirits, fearing to be left without a tree in 
which to lodge, give up the child, and it is found in the 
fork of a tree.- Before the Katodis fell a forest-tree, 
they choose a tree of the same kind and worship it by 
presenting a cocoa-nut, burning incense, applying a red 
pigment, and begging it to bless the undertaking.^ 
The intention, perhaps, is to induce the spirit of the 
former tree to shift its quarters to the latter. In clear- 
ing a wood, a Galeleze must not cut down the last tree 
till the spirit in it has been induced to go away.^ 
The Mundaris have sacred groves which were left 
standing when the land was cleared, lest the sylvan 
gods, disquieted at the felling of the trees, should 
abandon the place.^ The Miris in Assam are unwilling 
to break up new land for cultivation so long as there 
is fallow land available ; for they fear to offend the 
spirits of the woods by cutting down trees unneces- 

In Sumatra, so soon as a tree is felled, a young 
tree is planted on the stump ; and some betel and a few 
small coins are also placed on it." Here the purpose is 
unmistakable. The spirit of the tree is offered a new 
home in the young tree planted on the stump of the 
old one, and the offering of betel and money is meant 

1 Kubary in Bastian's Allerlei aiis ^ Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, pp. 

Mensch-und Volkenkimde, i. 52. 186, 188 ; cp. Bastian, Volkerstdmme 

^ Dalton, EtJuiology of Bengal, p. am Brahtnaputra, p. 9. 

25 ; Bastian, Vdlkerstdmme am Brah- " Dalton, op. cit. p. 33 ; Bastian, op. 

mapntra, p. 37. cit. p. 16. Cp. W. Robertson Smith, 

'^Journal R. Asiatic Society, vii. The Religion of the Se?nites, \. 12$. 

(1843)29. ' Van Hasselt, Volksbeschrijvingvan 

■* Bastian, Indonesien, i. 17. Midden-Sicmatra, p. 156. 


to compensate him for the disturbance he has suffered. 
So in the island of Chedooba, on felHng a large tree, 
one of the woodmen was always ready with a green 
sprig, which he ran and placed on the middle of the 
stump the instant the tree fell/ For the same 
purpose German woodmen make a cross upon the 
stump while the tree is falling, in the belief that this 
enables the spirit of the tree to live upon the 

Thus the tree is regarded, sometimes as the body, 
sometimes as merely the house of the tree-spirit ; and 
when we read of sacred trees which may not be cut 
down because they are the seat of spirits, it is not 
always possible to say with certainty in which way the 
presence of the spirit in the tree is conceived. In the 
following cases, perhaps, the trees are conceived as the 
dwelling-place of the spirits rather than as their bodies. 
The old Prussians, it is said, believed that gods in- 
habited high trees, such as oaks, from which they gave 
audible answers to inquirers ; hence these trees were 
not felled, but worshipped as the homes of divinities.^ 
The great oak at Romove was the especial dwelling- 
place of the god ; it was veiled with a cloth, which 
was, however, removed to allow worshippers to see the 
sacred tree.^ The Battas of Sumatra have been known 
to refuse to cut down certain trees because they were 

1 Handbook of Folk-lore, p. 19 (proof). sq. There is a good and cheap reprint 

2 Mannhardt, Baumkultus, p. 83. f L^siczki's work by W. Mannhardt in 

' ' -^ iMagazin nerausgegehe7i V071 der Letttsc]i- 

3 Erasmus Stella, " De Borussiae Literdrischeii GeseUschaft, xiv. 82 sqq. 
antiquitatibus," in JVoviis Orbis regi- (Mitau, 1868). 

omtvi ac insiilartun veteribiis incog- 

nitaru}?i, p. 510; Lasiczki (Lasicius), ■* Simon Griinau, Preiissische Chro- 

" De diis Samagitarum caeterorumque nik, ed. Perlbach (Leipzig 1876), p. 

'?i2.xm7k\.zx\xm,'''' 'm. Respublica sive Status 89; " Prisca antiquorum Prutenorum 

Regni Poloniae, Lituaniae, Prussiae, religio," in Respublica sive Status Regni 

Livoniae, etc. (Elzevir, 1627), p. 299 Poloniae tXc, p. 321. 


the abode of mighty spirits which would resent the 
injury.^ The Curka Coles of India believe that the tops 
of trees are inhabited by spirits which are disturbed by 
the cutting down of the trees and will take vengeance.^ 
The Samogitians thought that if any one ventured to 
injure certain groves, or the birds or beasts in them, 
the spirits would make his hands or feet crooked.^ 

Even where no mention is made of wood-spirits, 
we may generally assume that when a grove is sacred 
and inviolable, it is so because it is believed to be either 
inhabited or animated by sylvan deities. In Livonia 
there is a sacred grove in which, if any man fells a tree 
or breaks a branch, he will die within the year/ The 
Wotjaks have sacred groves. A Russian who ventured 
to hew a tree in one of them fell sick and died next 
day.^ Sacrifices offered at cutting down trees are 
doubtless meant to appease the wood-spirits. In Gil- 
git it is usual to sprinkle goat's blood on a tree of any 
kind before cutting it down.'^ Before thinning a grove 
a Roman farmer had to sacrifice a pig to the god or 
goddess of the grove.' The priestly college of the 
Arval Brothers at Rome had to make expiation when 
a rotten bough fell to the ground in the sacred grove, 
or when an old tree was blown down by a storm or 
dragged down by a weight of snow on its branches.^ 

When a tree comes to be viewed, no longer as the 
body of the tree-spirit, but simply as its dwelling-place 
which it can quit at pleasure, an important advance 

1 B. Hagen, " Beitrage zur Kennt- ^ Grimm, Deutsche Alythologie,'^ ,\, 

niss der Battareligion," in Tijdschrift 497 ; cp. ii. 540, 541. 

voorlndischeTaal-Laitd-enVolkenkunde, 5 Max Buch Die IVotjiikeii p. 124. 

""^^'sastianri/^ Vdlker des cstlichen " Biddulph Tribes of the Hindoo 

^w«, i. 134. Koosh, ^^. 116. 

3 Matthias Michov, in Novus Orlns ~ Cato, De agri ciiltura, 139. 

regionum ac insiilarnm veterihus incog- ^ Henzen, Acta fratriim arvalium 

nitarum, p. 457. (Berlin, 1 874), p. 138. 



has been made In religious thought. Animism is 
passing into polytheism. In other words, instead of 
regarding each tree as a living and conscious being, 
man now sees in it merely a lifeless, inert mass, 
tenanted for a longer or shorter time by a supernatural 
being who, as he can pass freely from tree to tree, 
thereby enjoys a certain right of possession or lordship 
over the trees, and, ceasing to be a tree-soul, becomes 
a forest god. As soon as the tree -spirit is thus in a 
measure disengaged from each particular tree, he 
begins to change his shape and assume the body of 
a man, in virtue of a general tendency of early thought 
to clothe all abstract spiritual beings in concrete 
human form. Hence in classical art the sylvan deities 
are depicted in human shape, their woodland character 
being denoted by a branch or some equally obvious 
symbol.^ But this change of shape does not affect 
the essential character of the tree-spirit. The powers 
which he exercised as a tree-soul incorporate in a tree, 
he still continues to wield as a god of trees. This I 
shall now prove in detail. I shall show, first, that 
trees considered as ayimate beings are credited with 
the power of making the rain to fall, the sun to shine, 
flocks and herds to multiply, and women to bring 
forth easily ; and, second, that the very same powers 
are attributed to tree -gods conceived as anthropo- 
morphic beings or as actually incarnate in living men. 

First, then, trees or tree - spirits are believed 
to give rain and sunshine. When the missionary 
Jerome of Prague was persuading the heathen 
Lithuanians to fell their sacred groves, a multitude 

^ On the representations of Silvanus, sischen Alteii-iims, iii. 1665 sq. A 

the Roman wood -god, see Jordan in good representation of Silvanus bearing 

Preller's Romische lilythologie,^ i. 393 a pine branch is given in the Sale Cata- 

jiote ; Baumeister, Denhndler des clas- logueofH. Hoffmann, Paris, i888,pt.ii. 


of women besought the Prince of Lithuania to stop 
him, saying" that witli the woods he was destroy- 
ing the house of god from which they had been 
wont to get rain and sunshine/ The Mundaris 
in Assam think if a tree in the sacred grove is 
felled, the sylvan gods evince their displeasure by 
withholding rain.^ In Cambodia each village or 
province has its sacred tree, the abode of a spirit. If 
the rains are late, the people sacrifice to the tree.^ 
To extort rain from the tree-spirit a branch is some- 
times dipped in water, as we have seen above/ In 
such cases the spirit is doubtless supposed to be 
immanent in the branch, and the water thus applied 
to the spirit produces rain by a sort of sympathetic 
magic, exactly as we saw that in New Caledonia the 
rain-makers pour water on a skeleton, believing that 
the soul of the deceased will convert the water into 
rain.' There is hardly room to doubt that Mannhardt 
is right in explaining as a rain-charm the European 
custom of drenching with water the trees which are 
cut at certain popular festivals, as midsummer, Whit- 
suntide, and harvest.*^ 

Again, tree - spirits make the crops to grow. 
Amongst the Mundaris every village has its sacred 
grove, and "the grove deities are held responsible for 
the crops, and are especially honoured at all the great 
agricultural festivals."' The negroes of the Gold 
Coast are in the habit of sacrificing at the foot of 
certain tall trees, and they think that if one of these 

1 Aeneas Sylvius, 0/£;-« (Bale, 1 571), ^ Aymonier in Excursions et Recon- 
p. 418 [wrongly numbered 420]; cp. naissaiices. No. 16. p. 175 sq. 
Erasmus Stella, "De Borussiae antiqui- ^ See above, pp. 13, 21. 
\.2ivXiws," 'va. Novus 0>-bis regionuDi ac in- ^ Above, p. 16. 

sulat-um vete)-ibns incognitarnm, ^. ^10. " Mannhardt, B. K. pp. 158, 159, 

2 Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 170, 197, 214, 351, 514. 

186. ^ V)7A\.ox).,EthnologyofBengal,T^.\%Z. 


trees were felled, all the fruits of the earth would 
perish.^ Swedish peasants stick a leafy branch in 
each furrow of their corn-fields, believing that this 
will ensure an abundant crop." The same idea comes 
out in the German and French custom of the Harvest- 
May. This is a large branch or a whole tree, which 
is decked with ears of corn, brought home on the last 
waggon from the harvest -field, and fastened on the 
roof of the farmhouse or of the barn, where it remains 
for a year. Mannhardt has proved that this branch 
or tree embodies the tree-spirit conceived as the spirit 
of vegetation in general, whose vivifying and fructify- 
ing influence is thus brought to bear upon the corn 
in particular. Hence in Swabia the Harvest-May is 
fastened amongst the last stalks of corn left standing 
on the field ; in other places it is planted on the corn- 
field and the last sheaf cut is fastened to its trunk.^ 
The Harvest -May of Germany has its counterpart 
in the eircsione of ancient Greece.'* The eiresione was 
a branch of olive or laurel, bound about with ribbons 
and hung with a variety of fruits. This branch was 
carried in procession at a harvest festival and was 
fastened over the door of the house, where it remained 
for a year. The object of preserving the Harvest- 
May or the eiresione for a year is that the life-giving 
virtue of the bough may foster the growth of the 
crops throughout the year. By the end of the year 
the virtue of the bough is supposed to be exhausted 
and it is replaced by a new one. Following a similar 
train of thought some of the Dyaks of Sarawak are 

^ Labat, Voyage du Chevalier des ^ L. Lloyd, Peasant Life in Sweden, 

JMarcJiais en Giiinee, Isles voisines, et a p. 266. 
Cayenne (Paris, 1730), i. 338. ^ Mannhardt, B. K. p. \()0 sqq. 

•* Mannhardt, A. IV. F. p. 212 sqq. 


careful at the rice harvest to take up the roots of a 
certain bulbous plant, which bears a beautiful crown 
of white and fragrant flowers. These roots are 
preserved with the rice in the granary and are planted 
again with the seed-rice in the follpwing season ; for 
the Dyaks say that the rice will not grow unless a 
plant of this sort be in the field. ^ 

Customs like that of the Harvest- May appear to 
exist in India and Africa. At a harvest festival of 
the Lhoosai of S. E. India the chief goes with his 
people into the forest and fells a large tree, which 
is then carried into the village and set up in the 
midst. Sacrifice is offered, and spirits and rice are 
poured over the tree. The ceremony closes with 
a feast and a dance, at which the unmarried men 
and girls are the only performers.^ Among the 
Bechuanas the hack-thorn is very sacred, and it would 
be a serious offence to cut a bough from it and carry 
it into the village during the rainy season. But when 
the corn is ripe in the ear the people go with axes, and 
each man brings home a branch of the sacred hack- 
thorn, with which they repair the village cattle-yard.^ 
Many tribes of S. E. Africa will not cut down timber 
while the corn is green, fearing that if they did so, 
the crops would be destroyed by blight, hail, or early 

Again, the fructifying power of the tree is put 
forth at seed-time as well as at harvest. Among the 
Aryan tribes of Gilgit, on the north-western frontier 
of India, the sacred tree is the Chili, a species of cedar 
(^Jtiniperus excelsa). At the beginning of wheat- 

^ H. Low, Sarazvak, p. 274. ^ J. Mackenzie, Ten years north of 

- T. H. Lewin, Wild Races of the Oj-ange River, p. 385. 
South-eastern India, p. 270. ^ Rev. J. Macdonald, MS. notes. 


sowing the people receive from the Raja's granary a 
quantity of wheat, which is placed in a skin mixed with 
sprigs of the sacred cedar, A large bonfire of the 
cedar wood is lighted, and the wheat which is to be 
sown is held over the smoke. The rest is ground and 
made into a large cake, which is baked on the same 
fire and given to the ploughman.^ Here the intention 
of fertilising the seed by means of the sacred cedar is 
unmistakable. In all these cases the power of foster- 
ing the growth of crops, and, in general, of cultivated 
plants, is ascribed to trees. The ascription is " not 
unnatural. For the tree is the largest and most 
powerful member of the vegetable kingdom, and man 
is familiar with it before he takes to cultivating corn. 
Hence he naturally places the feebler and, to him, 
newer plant under the dominion of the older and more 

Again, the tree-spirit makes the herds to multiply 
and blesses women with offspring. The sacred Chili 
or cedar of Gilgit was supposed to possess this virtue 
in addition to that of fertilising the corn. At the com- 
mencement of wheat-sowing three chosen unmarried 
youths, after undergoing daily washing and purification 
for three days, used to start for the mountain where 
the cedars grew, taking with them wine, oil, bread, 
and fruit of every kind. Having found a suitable tree 
they sprinkled the wine and oil on it, while they ate 
the bread and fruit as a sacrificial feast. Then they 
cut off the branch and brouo^ht it to the village, 
where, amid general rejoicing, it was placed on a large 
stone beside running water. "A goat was then sacri- 
ficed, its blood poured over the cedar branch, and a 

1 Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh, p. 103 sq. 


wild dance took place, in which weapons were 
brandished about, and the head of the slaughtered 
■goat was borne aloft, after which it was set up as a 
mark for arrows and bullet - practice. Every good 
shot was rewarded with a gourd full of wine and some 
of the flesh of the goat. When the flesh was finished 
the bones were thrown into the stream and a general 
ablution took place, after which every man went to his 
house taking with him a spray of the cedar. On arrival 
at his house he found the door shut in his face, and on 
his knocking for admission, his wife asked, ' What 
have you brought ?' To which he answered, ' If you 
want children, I have brought them to you ; if you 
want food, I have brought it ; if you want cattle, I 
have brought them; whatever you want, I have it.' 
The door was then opened and he entered with his 
cedar spray. The wife then took some of the leaves 
and pouring wine and water on them placed them on 
the fire, and the rest were sprinkled with flour and 
suspended from the ceiling. She then sprinkled flour 
on her husband's head and shoulders, and addressed 
him thus : ' Ai Shiri Bagerthum, son of the fairies, 
you have come from far ! ' Shiri Bagerthum, ' the 
dreadful king,' being the form of address to the cedar 
when praying for wants to be fulfilled. The next day 
the wife baked a number of cakes, and taking them 
with her, drove the family goats to the Chili stone. 
When they were collected round the stone, she began 
to pelt them with pebbles, invoking the Chili at the 
same time. According to the direction in which the 
goats ran off", omens were drawn as to the number and 
sex of the kids expected during the ensuing year. 
Walnuts and pomegranates were then placed on 
the Chili stone, the cakes were distributed and 


eaten, and the goats followed to pasture in whatever 
direction they showed a disposition to go. For 
five days afterwards this song was sung in all the 
houses : — 

' Dread Fairy King, I sacrifice before you, 
How nobly do you stand ! you have filled up my house. 
You have brought me a wife when I had not one, 
Instead of daughters you have given me sons. 
You have shown me the ways of right. 
You have given me many children.' " i 

Here the driving of the goats to the stone on which 
the cedar had been placed is clearly meant to impart 
to them the fertilising influence of the cedar. In 
Europe the May -tree (May -pole) is supposed to 
possess similar powers over both women and cattle. 
In some parts of Germany on the ist of May the 
peasants set up May-trees at the doors of stables and 
byres, one May-tree for each horse and cow ; this is 
thought to make the cows yield much milk." Camden 
says of the Irish, "They fancy a green bough of a 
tree, fastened on May -day against the house, will 
produce plenty of milk that summer." ^ 

On the 2d of July some of the Wends used to set 
up an oak-tree in the middle of the village with an iron 
cock fastened to its top ; then they danced round it, 
and drove the cattle round it to make them thrive.^ 

Some of the Esthonians believe in a mischievous 
spirit called Metsik, who lives in the forest and has 
the weal of the cattle in his hands. Every year a new 
image of him is prepared. On an appointed day all 
the villagers assemble and make a straw man, dress 

1 Biddulph, op. cit. p. 106 sq. Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kalendar aiis Boh- 

2 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 161; E. men, p. 210. 

Meier, Deutsche Sage,?, Sitien und 3 q^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^^^^ Popular An- 

Gebrauche aiis Schwahen, p. 397.; A. ^ nies, i. 227, Bohn's ed. 

Peter, Volksihibnliches aus Oster- 

reichisch-Schlesien, ii. 286 ; Reinsberg- * Mannhardt, B. K. p. 174. 


him in clothes, and take him to the common pasture 
land of the village. Here the figure is fastened to a 
high tree, round which the people dance noisily. On 
almost every day of the year prayer and sacrifice are 
offered to him that he may protect the cattle. Some- 
times the image of Metsik is made of a corn-sheaf and 
fastened to a tall tree in the wood. The people 
perform strange antics before it to induce Metsik to 
guard the corn and the cattle.^ 

The Circassians regard the pear-tree as the protector 
of cattle. So they cut down a young pear-tree in the 
forest, branch it, and carry it home, where it is adored 
as a divinity. Almost every house has one such pear- 
tree. In autumn, on the day of the festival, it is 
carried into the house with great ceremony to the 
sound of music and amid the joyous cries of all the 
inmates, who compliment it on its fortunate arrival. 
It is covered with candles, and a cheese is fastened to 
its top. Round about it they eat, drink, and sing. 
Then they bid it good-bye and take it back to the 
courtyard, where it remains for the rest of the year, set 
up against the wall, without receiving any mark of 

The common European custom of placing a green 
bush on May Day before the house of a beloved 
maiden probably originated in the belief of the fertil- 
ising power of the tree-spirit." Amongst the Kara- 
Kirgiz barren women roll themselves on the ground 
under a solitary apple-tree, in order to obtain offspring.^ 

^ Holzmayer, "Osiliana," Verhand- ^ Mannhardt, B. K. p. 163 sqq. To 

htngender Estnischeii Gesell.zii Dorpat, his authorities add, for Sardinia, R. 

vii. 10 sq.; Mannhardt, B. K. p. 407 Tennant, Sardinia and its Resources 

sq. (Rome and London, 1885), p. 185 sq. 

- Potocki, Voyage dans Ics steps * Radloff, Pi'oben der Volkslitter- 

d' Astrakhan et dii Caiicase (Paris, atitr der nordlichen Tiirkischen 

1829), i. 309. Stdmme, v. 2. 


Lastly, the power of granting to women an easy de- 
livery at child-birth is ascribed to trees both in Sweden 
and Africa. In some districts of Sweden there was 
formerly a bh'dtrad or guardian -tree (lime, ash, or 
elm) in the neighbourhood of every farm. No one 
would pluck a single leaf of the sacred tree, any injury 
to which was punished by ill-luck or sickness. Preg- 
nant women used to clasp the tree in their arms in 
order to ensure an easy- delivery.^ In some negro 
tribes of the Congo region pregnant women make 
themselves garments out of the bark of a certain 
sacred tree, because they believe that this tree delivers 
them from the dangers that attend child - bearing.- 
The story that Leto clasped a palm-tree and an olive- 
tree or two laurel-trees when she was about to give 
birth to Apollo and Artemis perhaps points to a 
similar Greek belief in the efficacy of certain trees to 
facilitate delivery.^ 

From this review of the beneficent qualities com- 
monly ascribed to tree-spirits, it is easy to understand 
why customs like the May-tree or May-pole have 
prevailed so widely and figured so prominently in the 
popular festivals of European peasants. In spring or 
early summer or even on Midsummer Day, it was and 
still is in many parts of Europe the custom to go out to 
the woods, cut down a tree and bring it into the village, 
where it is set up amid general rejoicings. Or the 
people cut branches in the woods, and fasten them on 
every house. The intention of these customs is to 
bring home to the village, and to each house, the 
blessings which the tree-spirit has in its power to bestow. 

1 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 51 sq. ^ Botticher, Der Bamnkidtiis der 

2 Merolla, "Voyage to Congo," in Belleiicii, p. 30 sq. 
Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, xvi. 

236 sq. 


Hence the custom in some places of planting a May- 
tree before every house, or of carrying the village May- 
tree from door to door, that every household may 
receive its share of the blessing. Out of the mass of 
evidence on this subject a few examples may be selected. 
Sir Henry Piers, in his Description of Westineath, 
writing in 1682 says: "On May-eve, every family 
sets up before their door a green bush, strewed over 
with yellow flowers, which the meadows yield plentifully. 
In countries where timber is plentiful, they erect tall 
slender trees, which stand high, and they continue 
almost the whole year ; so as a stranger would go nigh 
to imagine that they were all signs of ale-sellers, and 
that all houses were ale-houses."^ In Northampton- 
shire a young tree *ten or twelve feet high used to be 
planted before each house on May Day so as to appear 
growing.'-^ "An antient custom, still retained by the 
Cornish, is that of decking their doors and porches on 
the 1st of May with green boughs of sycamore and 
hawthorn, and of planting trees, or rather stumps of 
trees, before their houses."'' In the north of England it 
was formerly the custom for young people to rise very 
early on the morning of the ist of May, and go out 
with ifiusic into the woods, where they broke branches 
and adorned them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. 
This done, they returned about sunrise and fastened 
the flower-decked branches over the doors and windows 
of their houses.^ At Abingdon in Berkshire young 
people formerly went about in groups on May morning, 
singing a carol of which the following are some of the 
verses — 

1 Quoted by Brand, Popular ^ Borlase, cited by Brand, op. cit. i. 

A)itiquities, i. 246 (ed. Bohn). 222. 

^ Dyer, British Popular Ctisloiits, p. ^ Brand, op. cit. i. 212 sq. 



" We've been rambling all the night ; 
And sometime of this day ; 
And now returning back again, 
We bring a garland gay. 

"A garland gay we bring you here ; 
And at your door we stand ; 
It is a sprout well budded out, 

The work of our Lord's hand."^ 

At the villages of Saffron Walden and Debden 
in Essex on the ist of May little girls go about 
in parties from door to door singing a song almost 
identical with the above and carrying garlands ; a doll 
dressed in white is usually placed in the middle of each 
garland," At Seven Oaks on May Day the children 
carry boughs and garlands from house to house, begging 
for pence. The garlands consist of two hoops inter- 
laced crosswise, and covered with blue and yellow 
flowers from the woods and hedges,^ In some 
villages of the Vosges Mountains on the first Sunday 
of May young girls go in bands from house to 
house, singing a song in praise of May, in which 
mention is made of the "bread and meal that come in 
May." If money is given them, they fasten a green 
bough to the door ; if it is refused, they wish the family 
many children and no bread to feed them.' In 
Mayenne (France), boys who bore the name of 
Maillotins used to go about from farm to farm on 
the 1st of May singing carols, for which they received 
money or a drink ; they planted a small tree or a branch 
of a tree.'' 

On the Thursday before Whitsunday the Russian 
villagers "go out into the woods, sing songs, weave 

^ Dyer, Popular British Customs, p. ^ Dyer, op. cit. p. 243. 

233. ^ 'E.Cort&i, Fetesreligieuses,^.l6'j sqq. 

^ Chambers, Book of Days, i. 578 ; ^ Revjie des Traditions populaires, ii. 

Dyer, op. cit. p. 237 sq. 200. 


garlands, and cut down a young birch -tree, which 
they dress up in woman's clothes, or adorn with 
many-coloured shreds and ribbons. After that comes 
a feast, at the end of which they take the dressed -up 
birch -tree, carry it home to their village with joyful 
dance and song, and set it up in one of the houses, 
where it remains as an honoured guest till Whit- 
sunday. On the two intervening days they pay 
visits to the house where their ' guest ' is ; but on the 
third day, Whitsunday, they take her to a stream and 
fling her into its waters," throwing their garlands after 
her. *■' All over Russia every village and every town 
is turned, a little before Whitsunday, into a sort of 
garden. Everywhere along the streets the young 
birch-trees stand in rows, every house and every room 
is adorned with boughs, even the engines upon the 
railway are for the time decked with green leaves."^ 
In this Russian custom the dressing of the birch in 
woman's clothes shows how clearly the tree is conceived 
as personal ; and the throwing it into a stream is most 
probably a rain-charm. In some village of Altmark it 
was formerly the custom for serving-men, grooms, and 
cowherds to go from farm to farm at Whitsuntide 
distributing crowns made of birch-branches and flowers 
to the farmers ; these crowns were hung up in the 
houses and left till the following year." 

In the neighbourhood of Zabern in Alsace bands of 
people go about carrying May -trees. Amongst them 
is a man dressed in a white shirt, with his face 
blackened ; in front of him is carried a large May-tree, 
but each member of the band also carries a smaller one. 
One of the company carries a huge basket in which he 

1 Ralston, So?igs of the J?itssian " A. Kuhn, Mdrkische Sagen und 

People, p. 234 j'(/. jMiirchen, p. 315. 


collects eggs, bacon, etc.^ In some parts of Sweden on 
the eve of May Day lads go about carrying each a 
bunch of fresh-gathered birch twigs, wholly or partially 
in leaf. With the village fiddler at their head they go 
from house to house singing May songs ; the purport 
of which is a prayer for fine weather, a plentiful 
harvest, and worldly and spiritual blessings. One of 
them carries a basket in which he collects gifts of 
eggs and the like. If they are well received they 
stick a leafy twig in the roof over the cottage door.- 

But in Sweden midsummer is the season when 
these ceremonies are chiefly observed. On the Eve 
of St. John (23d June) the houses are thoroughly 
cleansed and garnished with green boughs and 
flowers. Young fir-trees are raised at the door-way 
and elsewhere about the homestead ; and very often 
small umbrageous arbours are constructed in the 
garden. In Stockholm on this day a leaf- market is 
held at which thousands of May-poles (^Maj Stdnger) 
six inches to twelve feet high, decorated with leaves, 
flowers, slips of coloured paper, gilt egg-shells, strung 
on reeds, etc. are exposed for sale. Bonfires are lit 
on the hills and the people dance round them and 
jump over them. But the chief event of the day 
is setting up the May-pole. This consists of a straight 
and tall spruce -pine tree, stripped of its branches. 
" At times hoops and at others pieces of wood, placed 
crosswise, are attached to it at Intervals ; whilst at 
others it is provided with bows, representing so to 
say, a man with his arms akimbo. From top to 
bottom not only the ' Maj Stang ' (May-pole) itself, 
but the hoops, bows, etc. are ornamented with leaves, 

1 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 162. 2 l, Lloyd, Peasant Life in Siuedm, 

P- 235. 


flowers, slips of various cloth, gilt egg-shells, etc. ; 
and on the top of it is a large vane, or it may be a 
flag." The raising of the May-pole, the decoration 
of which is done by the village maidens, is an affair 
of much ceremony ; the people flock to it from all 
quarters and dance round it in a great ring. ^ In 
some parts of Bohemia also a May-pole or midsummer- 
tree is erected on St. John's Eve. The lads fetch a 
tall fir or pine from the wood and set it up on a 
height, where the girls deck it with nosegays, garlands, 
and red ribbons. Then they pile brushwood, dry 
wood, and other combustible materials about the tree, 
and, when darkness has fallen, set the whole on fire. 
While the fire was burning the lads used to climb 
up the tree and fetch down the garlands and ribbons 
which the girls had fastened to it ; but as this led 
to accidents, the custom has been forbidden. Some- 
times the young people fling burning besoms into the 
air, or run shouting down hill with them. When the 
tree is consumed, the young men and their sweethearts 
stand on opposite sides of the fire, and look at each 
other through garlands and through the fire,' to see 
whether they will be true lovers and will wed. Then 
they throw the garlands thrice across the smouldering 
fire to each other. When the blaze has died down, 
the couples join hands and leap thrice across the 
glowing embers. The singed garlands are taken 
home, and kept carefully in the house throughout 
the year. Whenever a thunder-storm bursts, part of 
the garlands are burned on the hearth ; and when 
the cattle are sick or are calving, they get a portion 
of the garlands to eat. The charred embers of the 
bonfire are stuck in the cornfields and meadows and 

1 L. Lloyd, op. cit. p. 257 sqq. 


on the roof of the house, to keep house and field 
from bad weather and injury. ^ 

It is hardly necessary to illustrate the custom of 
setting up a village May-tree or May-pole on May 
Day. One point only — the renewal of the village 
May-tree — requires to be noticed. In England the 
village May-pole seems as a rule, at least in later 
times, to have been permanent, not renewed from 
year to year. - Sometimes, however, it was renewed 
annually. Thus, Borlase says of the Cornish people : 
" From towns they make incursions, on May-eve, 
into the country, cut down a tall elm, bring it 
into the town with rejoicings, and having fitted 
a straight taper pole to the end of it, and painted it, 
erect it in the most public part, and upon holidays 
and festivals dress it with garlands of flowers or 
ensigns and streamers."^ An annual renewal seems 
also to be implied in the description by Stubbs, a 
Puritanical writer, of the custom of drawing home 
the May-pole by twenty or forty yoke of oxen. ^ 
In some parts of Germany and Austria the May- 
tree or Whitsuntide- tree is renewed annually, a 
fresh tree being felled and set up."^ 

We can hardly doubt that originally the practice 
everywhere was to set up a new May-tree every year. 
As the object of the custom was to bring in the 
fructifying spirit of vegetation, newly awakened in 
spring, the end would have been defeated if, instead 
of a living tree, green and sappy, an old withered one 
had been erected year after year or allowed to stand 
permanently. When, however, the meaning of the 

1 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kal- 3 Quoted by Brand, op. cit. i. 237. 

endar aits Bohmen, p. 308 sq. * Id., op. cit. i. 235. 

"- YiowQ, Every-day Book,\. i^i,"] sqq. ; 5 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 169 sq. 

Chambers, Book of Days, i. 571. note. 


custom had been forgotten, and the May -tree was re- 
garded simply as a centre for hoHday merrymaking, 
people saw no reason for felling a fresh tree every 
year, and preferred to let the same tree stand per- 
manently, only decking it with fresh flowers on May 
Day. But even when the May-pole had thus become a 
fixture, the need of giving it the appearance of being a 
green tree, not a dead pole, was sometimes felt. Thus 
at Weverham in Cheshire "are two May-poles, which 
are decorated on this day (May Day) with all due 
attention to the ancient solemnity ; the sides are 
hung with garlands, and the top terminated by a birch 
or other tall slender tree with its leaves on ; the bark 
being peeled, and the stem spliced to the pole, so as 
to give the appearance of one tree from the summit." ^ 
Thus the renewal of the May-tree is like the renewal 
of the Harvest -May; each is intended to secure a 
fresh portion of the fertilising spirit of vegetation, 
and to preserve it throughout the year. But whereas 
the efficacy of the Harvest -May is restricted to 
promoting the growth of the crops, that of the May- 
tree or May -branch extends also, as we have seen, 
to women and cattle. Lastly, it is worth noting that 
the old May -tree is sometimes burned at the end 
of the year. Thus in the district of Prague young 
people break pieces off the public May -tree and 
place them behind the holy pictures in their rooms, 
where they remain till next May Day, and are then 
burned on the hearth.^ In Wtirtemberg the bushes 
which are set up on the houses on Palm Sunday are 
sometimes left there for a year and then burnt.^ The 

^ Hone, Every-day Book, ii. 597 sq. ^ Birlinger, Volksthiimliches ans 

" Reinsberg - Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kal- Schwaben, ii. 74 sq.; Mannhardt, B. 

endar aiis Bohmen,^. 217; Mannhardt, K. p. 566. 

B. K. p. 566. 



eiresioiie (the Harvest- May of Greece) was perhaps 
burned at the end of the year.^ 

So much for the tree-spirit conceived as incorpor- 
ate or immanent in the tree. We have now to show 
that the tree-spirit is often conceived and represented 
as detached from the tree and clothed in human form, 
and even as embodied in hving men or women. The 
evidence for this anthropomorphic representation of 
the tree -spirit is largely to be found in the popular 
customs of European peasantry. 

There is an instructive class of cases in which the 
tree -spirit is represented simultaneously in vegetable 
form and in human form, which are set side by side as 
if for the express purpose of explaining each other. 
In these cases the human representative of the tree- 
spirit is sometimes a doll or puppet, sometimes a living 
person ; but whether a puppet or a person, it is placed 
beside a tree or bough ; so that together the person or 
puppet, and the tree or bough, form a sort of bilingual 
inscription, the one being, so to speak, a translation of 
the other. Here, therefore, there is no room left for 
doubt that the spirit of the tree is actually represented 
in human form. Thus in Bohemia, on the fourth 
Sunday in Lent, young people throw a puppet called 
Death into the water ; then the girls go into the 
wood, cut down a young tree, and fasten to it a puppet 
dressed in white clothes to look like a woman ; with 
this tree and puppet they go from house to house 
collecting gratuities and singing songs with the 
refrain — 

" We carry Death out of the viUage, 
We bring Summer into the village." 2 

^ Aristophanes, /'/«/;^j-, 1054 ; Mann- 2 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, /v-^AA'a/i?;;- 

hardt, A. IV. F. p. 222 sq. dar aus Bohmeji, p. 86 sqq. ; Mann- 

hardt, B. A", p. 156. 


Here, as we shall see later on, the "Summer" is the 
spirit of vegetation returning or reviving in spring. 
In some places in this country children go about 
asking for pence with some small imitations of May- 
poles, and with a finely dressed doll which they call 
the Lady of the May/ In these cases the tree and 
the puppet are obviously regarded as equivalent. 

At Thann, in Alsace, a girl called the Little May 
Rose, dressed in white, carries a small May - tree, 
which is gay with garlands and ribbons. Her com- 
panions collect gifts from door to door, singing a 

" Little May Rose turn round three times, 
Let us look at you round and round ! 
Rose of the May, come to the greenwood away, 
We will be merry all. 
So we go from the May to the roses." 

In the course of the song a wish is expressed that 
those who give nothing may lose their fowls by the 
marten, that their vine may bear no clusters, their tree 
no nuts, their field no corn ; the produce of the year is 
supposed to depend on the gifts ofiered to these May 
singers.- Here and in the cases mentioned above, 
where children go about with green boughs on May 
Day singing and collecting money, the meaning is that 
with the spirit of vegetation they bring plenty and 
good luck to the house, and they expect to be paid 
for the service. In Russian Lithuania, on the ist of 
May, they used to set up a green tree before the village. 
Then the rustic swains chose the prettiest girl, crowned 
her, swathed her in birch branches and set her beside 
the May-tree, where they danced, sang, and shouted 

1 Chambers, Book of Days, i. 573. 2 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 312. 


"O May! O May ! " ^ In Brie (Isle de France) a 
May-tree is set up in the midst of the village ; its top 
is crowned with flowers ; lower down it is twined with 
leaves and twigs, still lower with huge green branches. 
The girls dance round it, and at the same time a lad 
wrapt in leaves and called Father May is led about." 
In Bavaria, on the 2d of May, a Walter {}) tree is 
erected before a tavern, and a man dances round it, 
enveloped in straw from head to foot in such a way 
that the ears of corn unite above his head to form a 
crown. He is called the Walter, and used to be led 
in solemn procession through the streets, which were 
adorned with sprigs of birch.^ In Carinthia, on St. 
George's Day (24th April), the young people deck 
with flowers and garlands a tree which has been felled 
on the eve of the festival. The tree is then carried in 
procession, accompanied with music and joyful acclama- 
tions, the chief figure in the procession being the Green 
George, a young fellow clad from head to foot in green 
birch branches. At the close of the ceremonies the 
Green George, that is an effigy of him, is thrown into 
the water. It is the aim of the lad who acts Green 
George to step out of his leafy envelope and substitute 
the effigy so adroitly that no one shall perceive the 
change. In many places, however, the lad himself 
who plays the part of Green George is ducked in a 
river or pond, with the express intention of thus ensur- 
ing rain to make the fields and meadows green in 
summer. In some places the cattle are crowned and 
driven from their stalls to the accompaniment of a 
song — 

1 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 313. ^ Bavat-ia, Landes-tind Volkskiinde 

des Kbiiigreichs Bayern, iii. 357 ; Mann- 

2 lb. p. 314. hardt, B. K. p. 312 sq. 


" Green George we bring, 
Green George we accompany, 
May he feed our herds well, 
If not, to the water with him." ^ 

Here we see that the same powers of making rain and 
fostering the cattle, which are ascribed to the tree- 
spirit regarded as incorporate in the tree, are also attri- 
buted to the tree-spirit represented by a living man. 

An example of the double representation of the 
spirit of vegetation by a tree and a living man is re- 
ported from Bengal. The Oraons have a festival in 
spring while the sal trees are in blossom, because 
they think that at this time the marriage of earth is 
celebrated and the sal tiowers are necessary for the 
ceremony. On an appointed day the villagers go with 
their priest to the Sarna, the sacred grove, a remnant 
of the old sal forest in which a goddess Sarna Burhi, 
or woman of the grove, is supposed to dwell. She is 
thought to have great influence on the rain ; and the 
priest arriving with his party at the grove sacrifices to 
her five fowls, of which a morsel is given to each per- 
son present. Then they gather the sal flowers and 
return laden with them to the village. Next day the 
priest visits every house, carrying the flowers in a wide 
open basket. The women of each house bring out 
water to wash his feet as he approaches, and kneeling 
make him an obeisance. Then he dances with them 
and places some of the sal flowers over the door of the 
house and in the women's hair. No sooner is this done 
than the women empty their water-jugs over him, drench- 
ing him to the skin. A feast follows, and the young 
people, with sal flowers in their hair, dance all night on 
the village green. ^ Here, the equivalence of the flower- 

1 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 313 sq. - Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 261. 


bearing priest to the goddess of the flowering- tree 
comes out plainly. For she is supposed to influence 
the rain, and the drenching of the priest with water is, 
doubtless, like the ducking of the Green George in 
Bavaria, a rain-charm. Thus the priest, as if he were 
the tree goddess herself, goes from door to door dis- 
pensing rain and bestowing fruitfulness on each house, 
but especially on the women. 

Without citing more examples to the same effect, 
we may sum up the result of the preceding paragraphs 
in the words of Mannhardt. "The customs quoted 
suffice to establish with certainty the conclusion that 
in these spring processions the spirit of vegetation is 
often represented both by the May-tree and in addi- 
tion by a man dressed in green leaves or flowers or by 
a girl similarly adorned. It is the same spirit which 
animates the tree and is active in the inferior plants 
and which we have recognised in the May-tree and 
the Harvest- May. Quite consistently the spirit is also 
supposed to manifest his presence in the first flower 
of spring and reveals himself both in a girl represent- 
ing a May-rose, and also, as giver of harvest, in the 
person of the Walber. The procession with this 
representative of the divinity was supposed to produce 
the same beneficial effects on the fowls, the fruit-trees, 
and the crops as the presence of the deity himself. In 
other words, the mummer was regarded not as an 
image but as an actual representative of the spirit of 
vegetation ; hence the wish expressed by the attendants 
on the May-rose and the May-tree that those who 
refuse them gifts of eggs, bacon, etc. may have no share 
in the blessings which it is in the power of the itinerant 
spirit to bestow. We may conclude that these begging 
processions with May-trees or May-boughs from door 


to door ("bringing the May or the summer") had every- 
where originally a serious and, so to speak, sacramental 
significance ; people really believed that the god of 
growth was present unseen in the bough ; by the pro- 
cession he was brought to each house to bestow his 
blessing. The names May, Father May, May Lady, 
Queen of the May, by which the anthropomorphic spirit 
of vegetation is often denoted, show that the concep- 
tion of the spirit of vegetation is blent with a personi- 
fication of the season at which his powers are most 
strikingly manifested."^ 

Thus far we have seen that the tree-spirit or the 
spirit of vegetation in general is represented either in 
vegetable form alone, as by a tree, bough, or flower; or 
in vegetable and human form simultaneously, as by a 
tree, bough, or flower in combination with a puppet or 
a living person. It remains to show that the represen- 
tation of him by a tree, bough, or flower is sometimes 
entirely dropped, while the representation of him by a 
living person remains. In this case the representative 
character of the person is generally marked by dress- 
ing him or her in leaves or flowers ; sometimes too it 
is indicated by the name he or she bears. 

We saw that in Russia at Whitsuntide a birch-tree 
is dressed in woman's clothes and set up in the house. 
Clearly equivalent to this is the custom observed on 
Whit-Monday by Russian girls in the district of Pinsk. 
They choose the prettiest of their number, envelop 
her in a mass of foliage taken from the birch-trees and 
maples, and carry her about through the village. In a 
district of Little Russia they take round a "poplar," 
represented by a girl wearing bright flowers in her hair.^ 

^ Mannhardt, B. K.^. 315 sq. - Ralston, Songs of the Russian People, p. 234. 


In the Departement de I'Ain (France) on the ist of 
May eight or ten boys unite, clothe one of their number 
in leaves, and go from house to house begging.^ 
At Whitsuntide in Holland poor women used to go 
about begging with a little girl called Whitsuntide 
Flower [Pinxterbloem, perhaps a kind of iris) ; she was 
decked with flowers and sat in a waggon. In North 
Brabant she wears the flowers from which she takes 
her name and a song is sung — 

" Whitsuntide Flower 
Turn yourself once round." - 

In Ruhla (Thliringen) as soon as the trees begin 
to grow green in spring, the children assemble on a 
Sunday and go out into the woods, where they choose 
one of their playmates to be the Little Leaf Man. 
They break branches from the trees and twine them 
about the child till only his shoes peep out from the 
leafy mantle. Holes are made in it for him to see 
through, and two of the children lead the Little Leaf 
Man that he may not stumble or fall. Singing and 
dancing they take him from house to house, asking 
for gifts of food (eggs, cream, sausage, cakes). Lastly 
they sprinkle the Leaf Man with water and feast on 
the food they have collected.^ In England the best- 
known example of these leaf- clad mummers is the 
Jack-in-the-Green, a chimney-sweeper who walks 
encased in a pyramidal -shaped framework of wicker- 
work, which is covered with holly and ivy, and 
surmounted by a crown of flowers and ribbons. Thus 
arrayed he dances on May Day at the head of a troop 

1 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 318. ^ Mannhardt, B. K. p. 320; Witz- 

2 Mannhardt,^. K. p. 318; Grimm, schel, Sagen, Sit ten unci Gebrduche aus 
Deutsche Mythologie,^ \\. 657. Thiiringeii, p. 211. 


of chimney-sweeps, who collect pence.^ In some 
parts also of France a young fellow is encased in a 
wicker framework covered with leaves and is led 
about." In Frickthal (Aargau) a similar frame of 
basketwork is called the Whitsuntide Basket. As 
soon as the trees begin to bud, a spot is chosen in the 
wood, and here the village lads make the frame with 
all secrecy, lest others should forestall them. Leafy 
branches are twined round two hoops, one of which 
rests on the shoulders of the wearer, the other 
encircles his calves ; holes are made for his eyes and 
mouth; and a large nosegay crowns the whole. In 
this guise he appears suddenly in the village at the 
hour of vespers, preceded by three boys blowing on 
horns made of willow bark. The great object of his 
supporters is to set up the Whitsuntide Basket beside 
the village well, and to keep it and him there, despite 
the efforts of the lads from neighbouring villages, who 
seek to carry off the Whitsuntide Basket and set it 
up at their own well." In the neighbourhood of 
Ertingen (Wiirtemberg) a masker of the same sort, 
known as the Lazy Man (Latzmann), goes about the 
village on Midsummer Day ; he is hidden under a 
great pyramidal or conical frame of wicker-work, ten 
or twelve feet high, which is completely covered with 
sprigs of fir. He has a bell which he rings as he 
goes, and he is attended by a suite of persons dressed 
up in character — a footman, a colonel, a butcher, an 
angel, the devil, the doctor, etc. They march in 
Indian file and halt before every house, where each 
of them speaks in character, except the Lazy Man, 

1 Mannhardt, B. A', p. 322 ; Hone, ^ Mannhardt, B. A', p. 323. 

Eve)y-day Book, i. 583 sqq. ; Dyer, 
British Popular Customs, p. 230 sq. ^ lb. 


who says nothing. With what they get by begging 
from door to door they hold a feast. ^ 

In the class of cases of which the above are 
specimens it is obvious that the leaf-clad person who 
is led about is equivalent to the May-tree, May- 
bough, or May- doll, which is carried from house to 
house by children begging. Both are representatives 
of the beneficent spirit of vegetation, whose visit to 
the house is recompensed by a present of money or 

Often the leaf- clad person who represents the 
spirit of vegetation is known as the king or the 
queen ; thus, for example, he or she is called the May 
King, Whitsuntide King, Queen of May, and so on. 
These titles, as Mannhardt observes, imply that the 
spirit incorporate in vegetation is a ruler, whose 
creative power extends far and wide.^ 

In a village near Salzwedel a May-tree is set up 
at Whitsuntide and the boys race to it ; he who 
reaches it first is king ; a garland of flowers is put 
round his neck and in his hand he carries a May- 
bush, with which, as the procession moves along, he 
sweeps away the dew. At each house they sing a 
sono^, wishino; the inmates oood luck, referring to the 
" black cow in the stall milking white milk, black hen 
on the nest laying white eggs," and begging a gift of 
eggs, bacon, etc.^ In some villages of Brunswick at 
Whitsuntide a May King is completely enveloped in 
a May-bush. In some parts of Thuringen also they 
have a May King at Whitsuntide, but he is got up 
rather differently. A frame of wood is made in which 

1 Biilinger, Volksthihnliches aiis - Mannhardt, B. K. p. 341 sq. 

Sckwaben, ii. 114 sq. ; Mannhardt, ^ Kuhn und SchyN&riz, No7-ddeutsche 

B. K. p. 325. Sagen, Mdrchen itnd Gebriiuche, p. 380. 


a man can stand ; it is completely covered with birch 
boughs and is surmounted by a crown of birch and 
flowers, in which a bell is fastened. This frame is 
placed in the wood and the May King gets into it. 
The rest go out and look for him, and when they have 
found him they lead him back into the village to the 
magistrate, the clergyman, and others, who have to 
guess who is in the verdurous frame. If they guess 
wrong, the May King rings his bell by shaking his 
head, and a forfeit of beer or the like must be paid by 
the unsuccessful guesser.^ In some parts of Bohemia 
on Whit- Monday the young fellows disguise them- 
selves in tall caps of birch bark adorned with flowers. 
One of them is dressed as a king and dragged on a 
sledge to the village green, and if on the way they 
pass a pool the sledge is always overturned into it. 
Arrived at the green they gather round the king ; 
the crier jumps on a stone or climbs up a tree and 
recites lampoons about each house and its inmates. 
Afterwards the disguises of bark are stripped off and 
they go about the village in holiday attire, carrying 
a May -tree and begging. Cakes, eggs, and corn 
are sometimes given them.^ At Grossvargula, near 
Langensalza, in last century a Grass King used to be 
led about in procession at Whitsuntide. He was 
encased in a pyramid of poplar branches, the top 
of which was adorned with a royal crown of 
branches and flowers. He rode on horseback with 
the leafy pyramid over him, so that its lower end 
touched the ground, and an opening was left in it 
only for his face. Surrounded by a cavalcade of 

^ Kuhn und Schwartz, op. fit. p. 2 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kal- 

384; Mannhardt, B. K. p. 342. endaj- aics B'dhmen, p. 260 sq. ; 

Mannhardt, B. K. p. 342 sq. 


young fellows, he rode in procession to the town 
hall, the parsonage, etc., where they all got a drink 
of beer. Then under the seven lindens of the neigh- 
bouring Sommerberg, the Grass King was stripped 
of his green casing ; the crown was handed to the 
Mayor, and the branches were stuck in the flax fields 
in order to make the fiax grow tall.^ In this last 
trait the fertilising influence ascribed to the represent- 
ative of the tree -spirit comes out clearly. In the 
neighbourhood of Pilsen (Bohemia) a conical hut of 
green branches, without any door, is erected at Whit- 
suntide in the midst of the village. To this hut rides 
a troop of village lads with a king at their head. 
He wears a sword at his side and a sugar-loaf hat of 
rushes on his head. In his train are a judge, a crier, 
and a personage called the Frog-flayer or Hangman. 
This last is a sort of ragged merryandrew, wearing 
a rusty old sword and bestriding a sorry hack. On 
reaching the hut the crier dismounts and goes round 
it looking for a door. Finding none, he says, "Ah, 
this is perhaps an enchanted castle ; the witches creep 
through the leaves and need no door." At last he 
draws his sword and hews his way into the hut, where 
there is a chair, on which he seats himself and proceeds 
to criticise in rhyme the girls, farmers, and farm- 
servants of the neighbourhood. When this is over, 
the Frog-flayer steps forward and, after exhibiting a 
cage with frogs in it, sets up a gallows on which he 
hangs the frogs in a row.^ In the neighbourhood of 
Plas the ceremony differs in some points. The king 
and his soldiers are completely clad in bark, adorned 

^ Mannhardt, B. K. p. 347 sq. ; " Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kal- 

Witzschel, Sagen, SittcJi u)id Gebrixitche endar aus Bohmen, p. 253 sqq. 
aiis Thiiringen, p. 203. 

jMAV oueen 


with flowers and ribbons ; they all carry swords and 
ride horses, which are gay with green branches and 
flowers. While the village dames and girls are beino- 
criticised at the arbour, a frog is secretly pinched and 
poked by the crier till it quacks. Sentence of death 
is passed on the frog by the king ; the hangman 
beheads it and flings the bleeding body among the 
spectators. Lastly, the king is driven from the hut 
and pursued by the soldiers.^ The pinching and 
beheading of the frog are doubtless, as Mannhardt 
observes,^ a rain -charm. We have seen^ that some 
Indians of the Orinoco beat frogs for the express 
purpose of producing rain, and that killing a frog is 
a German rain-charm. 

Often the spirit of vegetation in spring is repre- 
sented by a queen instead of a king. In the 
neighbourhood of Libchowic (Bohemia), on the fourth 
Sunday in Lent, girls dressed in white and wearing 
the first spring flowers, as violets and daisies,- in their 
hair, lead about the village a girl who is called the 
Queen and is crowned with flowers. Durino- the 
procession, which is conducted with great solemnity, 
none of the girls may stand still, but must keep whirling 
round continually and singing. In every house the 
Queen announces the arrival of spring and wishes the 
inmates good luck and blessings, for which she 
receives presents.^ In German Hungary the girls 
choose the prettiest girl to be their Whitsuntide Queen, 
fasten a towering wreath on her brow, and carry her 
singing through the streets. At every house they 
stop, sing old ballads, and receive presents.^ In the 

1 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kal- * Reinsberg-Duringsfeld,/ej/-A'a/^«. 
eitdaraHsBdhmei!,^^. 262; Mannhardt, dar aiis Bdhmen, p. 93 ; Mannhardt, 
B. K. p. 353 sq. B. K. p. 344. 

2 B. K. p. 355. 3 Above, p. 18. 5 Mannhardt, B. K. p. 343 sq. 


south-east of Ireland on May Day the prettiest girl 
used to be chosen Queen of the district for twelve 
months. She was crowned with wild flowers ; feasting, 
dancing, and rustic sports followed, and were closed by 
a grand procession in the evening. During her year 
of office she presided over rural gatherings of young 
people at dances and merrymakings. If she married 
before next May Day her authority was at an end, 
but her successor was not elected till that day came 
round.^ The May Queen is common in France - and 
familiar in England. 

Again the spirit of vegetation is sometimes 
represented by a king and queen, a lord and lady, or 
a bridegroom and bride. Here again the parallelism 
holds between the anthropomorphic and the vegetable 
representation of the tree -spirit, for we have seen 
above that trees are sometimes married to each other.^ 
In a village near Koniggratz (Bohemia) on Whit- 
Monday the children play the king's game, at which a 
king and a queen march about under a canopy, the 
queen wearing a garland, and the youngest girl 
carrying two wreaths on a plate behind them. They 
are attended by boys and girls called groom's men and 
bridesmaids, and they go from house to house 
collecting gifts.'* Near Grenoble, in France, a king 
and queen are chosen on the istof May and are set on 
a throne for all to see.^ At Headington, near Oxford, 
children used to carry garlands from door to door on 

1 Dyer, British Popular Customs, ^ Above, p. 6o. 

p. 2yo stj. 4 Reinsberg-Duringsfeld,/>jAA'a/f«- 

2 Maniihardt, B. A', p. 344 s^.; dar aus Bo/imen,Y).26ssi/.;'MsLnnhaYdt, 
Cortet, Fetes religieuses, p. 160 sqq. ; ^_ j^^ p_ _^22. 

Monnier, Traditions populaires com- 

parees,p. 282 sqq.; Berenger-Feraud, ^ Monnier, Traditions popu/atrescof,i- 

Reminiscences popdaires de la Provence, parks, p. 304; Mannhardt, B. K. p. 

p. I sqq. 423- 



May Day. Each garland was carried by two girls, 
and they were followed by a lord and lady — a boy and 
girl linked together by a white handkerchief, of which 
each held an end, and dressed with ribbons, sashes, 
and flowers. At each door they sang a verse — 

" Gentlemen and ladies, 

We wish you happy May ; 
We come to show you a garland, 
Because it is May-day." 

On receiving money the lord put his arm about his 
lady's waist and kissed her.^ In some Saxon villaoes 
at Whitsuntide a lad and a lass disguise themselves 
and hide in the bushes or high grass outside the 
village. Then the whole village goes out with music 
"to seek the bridal pair." When they find the couple 
they all gather round them, the music strikes up, and 
the bridal pair is led merrily to the village. In the 
evening they dance. In some places the bridal pair 
is called the prince and the princess.- 

In the neighbourhood of Brian^on (Dauphine) on 
May Day the lads wrap up in green leaves a youno- 
fellow whose sweetheart has deserted him or married 
another. He lies down on the ground and feigns to be 
asleep. Then a girl who likes him, and would marry 
him, comes and wakes him, and raising him up offers 
him her arm and a flag. So they go to the alehouse, 
where the pair lead off the dancing. But they must 
marry within the year, or they are treated as old 
bachelor and old maid, and are debarred the company 
of the young folk. The lad is called the bridegroom 
of the month of May {Je fiancd du mois de May). In 
the alehouse he puts off his garment of leaves, out of 

1 Brand, Popular Aiitiqtiities, i. 2 £_ Sommer, Sageu, MiircJmt tmd 

233 sq. Bohn's ed. ; Mannhardt, B. K. Gebrduche aiis Sachsen imd Thiiringen, 
P- 424- P- 1 5 1 s'h ; Mannhardt, B. K. p. 43 1 sq. 


which, mixed with flowers, his partner in the dance 
makes a nosegay, and wears it at her breast next day, 
when he leads her again to the alehouse.^ Like this 
is a Russian custom observed in the district of 
Nerechta on the Thursday before Whitsunday. The 
o-irls Qfo out into a birch-wood, wind a a^irdle or band 
round a stately birch, twist its lower branches into a 
wreath, and kiss each other in pairs through the 
wreath. The girls who kiss through the wreath call 
each other gossips. Then one of the girls steps 
forward, and mimicking a drunken man, flings herself 
on the ground, rolls on the grass, and feigns to go 
fast asleep. Another girl wakens the pretended sleeper 
and kisses him ; then the whole bevy trips singing 
through the wood to twine garlands, which they throw 
into the water. In the fate of the garlands floating on 
the stream they read their own.^ In this custom the role 
of the sleeper was probably at one time sustained by a 
lad. In these French and Russian customs we have a 
forsaken bridegroom, in the following a forsaken bride. 
On Shrove Tuesday the Slovenes of Oberkrain drag 
a straw puppet with joyous cries up and down the 
village; then they throw it into the water or burn it, 
and from the height of the flames they judge of the 
abundance of the next harvest. The noisy crew is 
followed by a female masker, who drags a great board 
by a string and gives out that she is a forsaken bride.^ 
Viewed in the light of what has gone before, the 
awakening of the forsaken sleeper in these ceremonies 
probably represents the revival of vegetation in 
spring. But it is not easy to assign their respective 

1 This custom was told to Mannhardt '- Mannhardt, B. A', p. 434 s,]. 

by a French prisoner in the war of 
1870-71, B. K. p. 434. ^ lb. p. 435. 


roles to the forsaken bridegroom and to the girl 
who wakes him from his slumber. Is the sleeper 
the leafless forest or the bare earth of winter ? Is 
the girl who wakens him the fresh verdure or the 
genial sunshine of spring? It is hardly possible, on 
the evidence before us, to answer these questions. 
The Oraons of Bengal, it may be remembered, 
celebrate the marriage of earth in the springtime, 
when the sal -tree is in blossom. But from this we 
can hardly argue that in the European ceremonies 
the sleeping bridegroom is "the dreaming earth" 
and the girl the spring blossoms. 

In the Highlands of Scotland the revival of 
vegetation in spring used to be graphically re- 
presented as follows. On Candlemas day (2d Feb- 
ruary) in the Hebrides "the mistress and servants of 
each family take a sheaf of oats, and dress it up in 
women's apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay 
a wooden club by it, and this they call Briid's bed ; 
and then the mistress and servants cry three times, 
Brlid is come, Briid is welcome. This they do just 
before going to bed, and when they rise in the 
morning they look among the ashes, expecting to 
see the impression of Briid's club there ; which if 
they do they reckon it a true presage of a good crop 
and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as 
an ill omen."^ The same custom is described by 
another witness thus : " Upon the night before 
Candlemas it is usual to make a bed with corn and 
hay, over which some blankets are laid, in a part of 
the house near the door. When it is ready, a person 
goes out and repeats three times, . . . ' Bridget, 

1 Martin, "Description of the Western Islands of Scotland," in Pinkerton's 
Voyages and Travels, iii. 613 ; Mannhardt, B. K. p. 436. 



Bridget, come in ; thy bed is ready.' One or more 
candles are left burning near it all night." ^ 

Often the marriage of the spirit of vegetation in 
spring, though not directly represented, is implied by 
naming the human representative of the spirit "the 
Bride," and dressing her in wedding attire. Thus 
in some villages of Altmark at Whitsuntide, while 
the boys go about carrying a May-tree or leading a 
boy enveloped in leaves and flowers, the girls lead 
about the May Bride, a girl dressed as a bride with 
a great nosegay in her hair. They go from house 
to house, the May Bride singing a song in which 
she asks for a present, and tells the inmates of each 
house that if they give her something they will 
themselves have something the whole year through ; 
but if they give her nothing they will themselves 
have nothing.^ In some parts of Westphalia two 
girls lead a flower-crowned girl called " the Whitsun- 
tide Bride " from door to door, singing a song in 
which they ask for eggs.^ In Bresse in the month 
of May a girl called la Marine is tricked out with 
ribbons and nosegays and is led about by a gallant. 
She is preceded by a lad carrying a green May-tree, 
and appropriate verses are sung.^ 

§ 5. — Tree-zvorship in antiquity 

Such then are some of the ways in which the 
tree -spirit or the spirit of vegetation is represented 

1 Scotland and Scotsmen in the Miirchen, p. 318 sqq. ; Mannhardt, 

Eighteenth Century, from the MSS. B. K. p. 437. 
of John Ramsay of Ochteityie. ^ Mannhardt, B. K. p. 438. 

Edited by Alex. Allardyce (Edin- ^ Monnier, Traditions populaires 

burgh, 1888), ii. 447. comparces, p. 283 sq. ; Cortet, Ft-tes 

religieiises, p. 162 sq. ; Mannhardt, 

- Kuhn, Mdrkische Sagen und B. K. p. 439 sq. 


in the customs of our European peasantry. From 
the remarkable persistence and similarity of such 
customs all over Europe we are justified in con- 
cluding that tree -worship was once an important 
element in the religion of the Aryan race in 
Europe, and that the rites and ceremonies of the 
worship were marked by great uniformity every- 
where, and did not substantially differ from those 
which are still or were till lately observed by our 
peasants at their spring and midsummer festivals. 
For these rites bear internal marks of great 
antiquity, and this internal evidence is confirmed by 
the resemblance which the rites bear to those of rude 
peoples elsewhere.^ Therefore it is hardly rash to 
infer, from this consensus of popular customs, that 
the Greeks and Romans, like the other Aryan 
peoples of Europe, once practised forms of tree- 
worship similar to those which are still kept up by 
our peasantry. In the palmy days of ancient 
civilisation, no doubt, the worship had sunk to the 
level of vulgar superstition and rustic merrymaking, 
as it has done among ourselves. We need not 
therefore be surprised that the traces of such 
popular rites are few and slight in ancient literature. 
They are not less so in the polite literature of 
modern Europe ; and the negative argument cannot 
be allowed to go for more in the one case than in 
the other. Enough, however, of positive evidence 
remains to confirm the presumption drawn from 
analogy. Much of this evidence has been collected 
and analysed with his usual learning and judgment 
by W. Mannhardt.- Here I shall content myself 
with citing certain Greek festivals which seem to be 

1 Above, pp. 69 sqq., 85. 2 See especially his Antike Wald-und Feldkulte. 


the classical equivalents of an English May Day in 
the olden time. 

Every few years the Boeotians of Plataea held a 
festival which they called the Little Daedala. On the 
day of the festival they went out into an ancient oak 
forest, the trees of which were of gigantic girth. Here 
they set some boiled meat on the ground, and watched 
the birds that gathered round it. When a raven was 
observed to carry off a piece of the meat and settle on 
an oak, the people followed it and cut down the tree. 
With the wood of the tree they made an Image, dressed 
it as a bride, and placed it on a bullock -cart with a 
bridesmaid beside it. It seems then to have been 
drawn to the banks of the river Asopus and back 
to the town, attended by a piping and dancing crowd. 
After the festival the image was put away and kept 
till the celebration of the Great Daedala, which fell 
only once in sixty years. On this great occasion all 
the images that had accumulated from the celebrations 
of the Little Daedala were dragged on carts in solemn 
procession to the river Asopus, and then to the top of 
Mount Cithaeron. Here an altar had been constructed 
of square blocks of wood fitted together and sur- 
mounted by a heap of brushwood. Animals were 
sacrificed by being burned on the altar, and the altar 
itself, together with the images, were consumed by the 
flames. The blaze, we are told, rose to a prodigious 
height and was seen for many miles. To explain the 
origin of the festival it was said that once upon a time 
Hera had quarrelled with Zeus and left him in high 
dudgeon. To lure her back Zeus gave out that he 
was about to marry the nymph Plataea, daughter of 
the river Asopus. He caused a wooden image to be 
made, dressed and veiled as a bride, and conveyed on 


a bullock-cart. Transported with rage and jealousy, 
Hera flew to the cart, and tearing off the veil of the 
pretended bride, discovered the deceit that had been 
practised on her. Her rage was now changed to 
laughter, and she became reconciled to her husband 

The resemblance of this festival to some of the 
European spring and midsummer festivals is tolerably 
close. We have seen that in Russia at Whitsuntide 
the villagers go out into the wood, fell a birch -tree, 
dress it in woman's clothes, and bring it back to the 
village with dance and song. On the third day it is 
thrown into the water.^ Again, we have seen that in 
Bohemia on Midsummer Eve the village lads fell a 
tall fir or pine-tree in the wood and set it up on a 
height, where it is adorned with garlands, nosegays, 
and ribbons, and afterwards burnt. ^ The reason for 
burning the tree will appear afterwards ; the custom 
itself is not uncommon in modern Europe. In some 
parts of the Pyrenees a tall and slender tree is cut 
down on May Day and kept till Midsummer Eve. It 
is then rolled to the top of a hill, set up, and burned.^ 
In Angouleme on St. Peter's Day, 29th June, a tall 
leafy poplar is set up in the market-place and burned.^ 
In Cornwall " there was formerly a great bonfire on 
midsummer- eve ; a large summer pole was fixed in 
the centre, round which the fuel was heaped up. It 
had a large bush on the top of it." "^ In Dublin on 
May-morning boys used to go out and cut a May- 
bush, bring- it back to town, and then burn it.^ 

1 Pausanias, ix. 3; Plutarch, ap. ^ B. K. p. iTT sq. 

Eusebius, Praepar. Evang. iii. i sq. ^ Brand, Popular Antiquities, i. 318, 

2 Above, p. 76 sq, Bohn's ed. ; B. K. p. 178. 
2 Above, p. 79. r Hone, Every -day Book, ii. 595 

* B. K. p. 177. sq.; B. K. p. 178. 


Probably the Boeotian festival belonged to the same 
class of rites. It represented the marriage of the 
powers of vegetation in spring or midsummer, just as 
the same event is represented in modern Europe by 
a King and Queen or a Lord and Lady of the May. In 
the Boeotian, as in the Russian, ceremony the tree 
dressed as a woman represents the English May-pole 
and May-queen in one. All such ceremonies, it must 
be remembered, are not, or at least were not originally, 
mere spectacular or dramatic exhibitions. They are 
magical charms designed to produce the effect which 
they dramatically represent. If the revival of vege- 
tation in spring is represented by the awakening of a 
sleeper, the representation is intended actually to 
quicken the growth of leaves and blossoms ; if the 
marriage of the powers of vegetation is represented 
by a King and Queen of May, the idea is that the 
powers so represented will really be rendered more 
productive by the ceremony. In short, all these spring 
and midsummer festivals fall under the head of sym- 
pathetic magic. The event which it is desired to bring 
about is represented dramatically, and the very repre- 
sentation is believed to effect, or at least to contribute 
to, the production of the desired event. In the case 
of the Daedala the story of Hera's quarrel with Zeus 
and her sullen retirement may perhaps without strain- 
ing be interpreted as a mythical expression for a bad 
season and the failure of the crops. The same dis- 
astrous effects were attributed to the anger and seclusion 
of Demeter after the loss of her daughter Proserpine.^ 
Now the institution of a festival is often explained by 
a mythical story of the occurrence upon a particular 
occasion of those very calamities which it is the real 

^ Pausanias, viii. 42. 


object of the festival to avert ; so that if we know the 
myth told to account for the historical origin of the 
festival, we can often infer from it the real intention 
with which the festival was celebrated. If, therefore, 
the origin of the Daedala was explained by a story of 
a failure of crops and consequent famine, we may infer 
that the real object of the festival was to prevent the 
occurrence of such disasters ; and, if I am right in my 
interpretation of the festival, the object was supposed 
to be effected by a dramatic representation of the 
marriage of the divinities most concerned with the pro- 
duction of vegetation/ The marriage of Zeus and Hera 
was dramatically represented at annual festivals in 
various parts of Greece,^ and it is at least a fair con- 
jecture that the nature and intention of these ceremonies 
were such as I have assigned to the Plataean festival 
of the Daedala ; in other words, that Zeus and Hera 
at these festivals were the Greek equivalents of the 
Lord and Lady of the May. Homer's glowing picture 
of Zeus and Hera couched on fresh hyacinths and 
crocuses,^ like Milton's description of the dalliance 
of Zephyr and Aurora, " as he met her once a- 
Maying," was perhaps painted from the life. 

Still more confidently may the same character be 
vindicated for the annual marriage at Athens of the 

1 Once upon a time the Wotjaks of to imagine. Perhaps, as Bechterew 

Russia, being distressed by a series of thinks, they meant to marry Kerciiict to 

bad harvests, ascribed the calamity to the kindly and fruitful iiiiiky/c in, the 

the wrath of one of their gods, Keremet, earth-wife, in order that she might influ- 

at being unmarried. So they went in ence him for gbod." — Max Buch, Die 

procession to the sacred grove, riding IVotjdken, eine ethnologische Shidie 

on gaily-decked waggons, as they do (Stuttgart, 1882), p. 137. 

when they are fetching home a bride. o ., ^ ■ n ^^ t^;^^^,-„o -t 

.^ ^, -"^ , ^^-^i r * 1 11 "At Cnossus m Crete, Diodoius, V. 

At the sacred grove they feasted all _ , r- t * „f;„^ A,r/,v \ t>7- 

. ,, , , *= .J , • ,, 72; at Samos, Lactantms, y«J/«. 1. 17; 

night, and next mornmg they cut m the ' .,, -nu »• , • > j. 

'^ ' . ?/,-,,, at Athens, Photms, sv. lepov y&fjLov ; 

grove a square piece of turf which they „, 7 ?, r 

took home with them. "What they 
meant by this marriage ceremony," says 

468. 52. 

the writer who reports it, " it is not easy ^ I//ad, xiv. 347 S(j(/. 


Queen to Dionysus in the Flowery Month [AntJies- 
terion) of spring.^ For Dionysus, as we shall see later 
on, was essentially a god of vegetation, and the Queen 
at Athens was a purely religious or priestly functionary.^ 
Therefore at their annual marriage in spring he can 
hardly have been anything but a King, and she a Queen, 
of May. The women who attended the Queen at the 
marriage ceremony would correspond to the bridesmaids 
who wait on the May-queen.^ Again, the story, dear 
to poets and artists, of the forsaken and sleeping 
Ariadne waked and wedded by Dionysus, resembles so 
closely the little drama acted by French peasants of the 
Alps on May Day * that, considering the character of 
Dionysus as a god of vegetation, we can hardly help 
regarding it as the description of a spring ceremony 
corresponding to the French one. In point of fact the 
marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne is believed by 
Preller to have been acted every spring in Crete. ^ 
His evidence, indeed, is inconclusive, but the view 
itself is probable. If I am right in instituting the 
comparison, the chief difference between the French 
and the Greek ceremonies must have been that in the 
former the sleeper was the forsaken bridegroom, in the 
latter the forsaken bride ; and the group of stars in 
the sky, in which fancy saw Ariadne's wedding-crown,*^ 
could only have been a translation to heaven of the 
garland worn by the Greek girl who played the Queen 
of May. 

On the whole, alike from the analogy of modern 

1 Demosthenes, Neaer. § 73 sqq. 2 Above, p. 7. 

p. 1369 sq.; Hesychius, sw. ^lov{)aov 3 ^bove p. 04. 
yd/j.os and yepapai ; Etymol. Alagn. ' ^' 

sv. yepalpai ; Pollux, viii. 108 ; Aug. * Above, p. 95 sq. 

Mommsen, Heortolos^ie, p. 31:7 sqq.', r, ^ ,, ^ ■ , ,, , ,q. 

u ^ ,, J- ,;■ r Aii Fre er, Griech. MytJiol.^ \. i^CQ. 

Hermann, Gottesdiensthche Alter- ' -^ • ■ ojy- 

thiimer,- § 32. 15, § 58. 11 sqq. ^ Hyginus, Astro7ioinica, i. 5. 

DIANA 105 

folk-custom and from the facts of ancient ritual and 
mythology, we are justified in concluding that the 
archaic forms of tree-worship disclosed by the spring 
and midsummer festivals of our peasants were practised 
by the Greeks and Romans in prehistoric times. Do 
then these forms of tree-worship help to explain the 
priesthood of Aricia, the subject of our inquiry ? I 
believe they do. In the first place the attributes of 
Diana, the goddess of the Arician grove, are those of 
a tree-spirit or sylvan deity. Her sanctuaries were in 
groves, indeed every grove was her sanctuary,^ and she 
is often associated with the wood -god Silvanus in 
inscriptions.- Like a tree-spirit, she helped women in 
travail, and in this respect her reputation appears to 
have stood high at the Arician grove, if we may judge 
from the votive offerings found on the spot.^ Again, 
she was the patroness of wild animals ; ^ just as in 
Finland the wood-god Tapio was believed to care for 
the wild creatures that roamed the wood, they being 
considered his catde.^ So, too, the Samogitians 
deemed the birds and beasts of the woods sacred, 
doubtless because they were under the protection of 
the god of the wood.^' Again, there are indications 
that domestic catde were protected by Diana,' as they 
certainly were supposed to be by Silvanus.^ But 
we have seen that special influence over cattle is 
ascribed to wood-spirits ; in Finland the herds enjoyed 
the protection of the wood-gods both while they were 

1 Servius on Virgil, Georg. iii. ^ C3.s'ixe:n,Fi}!}iisc/u'I\fythologie,^.()T. 
332, tia?n, tit diximus, et oninis quer- *> Mathias Michov, " De Sarmatia 
cus Jovi est consecrata, et omnis hiciis Asiana atque Europea," in Noviis Orbis 
Dianae. regiomiDi ac insulariiin veteribus incog- 

2 Roscher's Lexikon d. Griech Jt. nitaniin, p. 457. 

Rdin. Mythologie, c. 1005. "' Livy, i. 45 ; Plutarch, Quaest. 

^ See above, p. 4. For Diana in this Rom. 4. 
character, see Roscher, (>/.«'/■. c. 1007. ** Virgil, Acu. viii. 600 sq., with 

■* Roscher, c. 1006 sq. Servius's note. 

io6 KING OF THE WOOD chap. 

in their stalls and while they strayed in the forest.^ 
Lastly, in the sacred spring which bubbled, and the 
perpetual fire which seems to have burned in the 
Arician grove,^ we may perhaps detect traces of other 
attributes of forest gods, the power, namely, to make 
the rain to fall and the sun to shine, '^ This last attri- 
bute perhaps explains why Virbius, the companion 
deity of Diana at Nemi, was by some believed to be 
the sun/ 

Thus the cult of the Arician grove was essentially 
that of a tree-spirit or wood deity. But our examina- 
tion of European folk-custom demonstrated that a tree- 
spirit is frequently represented by a living person, who 
is regarded as an embodiment of the tree-spirit and 
possessed of its fertilising powers ; and our previous 
survey of primitive belief proved that this concep- 
tion of a god incarnate in a living man is common 
among rude races. Further we have seen that the 
living person who is believed to embody in him- 
self the tree-spirit is often called a king, in which 
respect, again, he strictly represents the tree -spirit. 
For the sacred cedar of the Gilgit tribes is called, 
as we have seen, "the Dreadful King";" and 
the chief forest god of the Finns, by name Tapio, 
represented as an old man with a brown beard, a high 
hat of fir-cones and a coat of tree-moss, was styled the 
Wood King, Lord of the Woodland, Golden King of 
the Wood.^ May not then the King of the Wood in 
the Arician grove have been, like the King of May, 
the Grass King, and the like, an incarnation of the 
tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation ? His title, his sacred 

1 Castren, op. at. p. 97 sq. ^ Above, p. 71. 

^ Above, p. 4 S(]. " Castren, Fiiinische MytJiologie, pp. 

3 Above, p. 66 sq. ■* Above, p. 6. 92, 95. 


office, and his residence in the grove all point to this 
conclusion, which is confirmed by his relation to the 
Golden Bough. For since the King of the Wood 
could only be assailed by him who had plucked the 
Golden Bough, his life was safe from assault so long 
as the bough or the tree on which it grew remained 
uninjured. In a sense, therefore, his life was bound 
up with that of the tree ; and thus to some extent he 
stood to the tree in the same relation in which the 
incorporate or immanent tree-spirit stands to it. The 
representation of the tree-spirit both by the King of 
the Wood and by the Golden Bough (for it will hardly 
be disputed that the Golden Bough was looked upon 
as a very special manifestation of the divine life of the 
grove) need not surprise us, since we have found that 
the tree-spirit is not unfrequently thus represented in 
double, first by a tree or a bough, and second by a 
living person. 

On the whole then, if we consider his double char- 
acter as king and priest, his relation to the Golden 
Bough, and the strictly woodland character of the 
divinity of the grove, we may provisionally assume 
that the King of the Wood, like the May King and 
his congeners of Northern Europe, was deemed a 
living incarnation of the tree-spirit. As such he would 
be credited with those miraculous powers of sending 
rain and sunshine, making the crops to grow, women 
to bring forth, and flocks and herds to multiply, which 
are popularly ascribed to the tree-spirit itself The 
reputed possessor of powers so exalted must have been 
a very important personage, and in point of fact his 
influence appears to have extended far and wide. For^ 
in the days when the champaign country around was 

1 Historic. Roman. Fragm. ed. Peter, p. 52 (first ed.) 

io8 KING OF THE WOOD chap, i 

Still parcelled out among the petty tribes who com- 
posed the Latin League, the sacred grove on the 
Alban Mountain is known to have been an object 
of their common reverence and care. And just as 
the kings of Cambodia used to send offerings to the 
mystic Kings of Fire and Water far in the dim depths 
of the tropical forest, so, we may well believe, from all 
sides of the broad Latian plain the eyes and steps of 
Italian pilgrims turned to the quarter where, standing 
sharply out against the faint blue line of the Apen- 
nines or the deeper blue of the distant sea, the Alban 
Mountain rose before them, the home of the mysteri- 
ous priest of Nemi, the King of the Wood. 



" O liebe fliichtige Seele 

Dir ist so bang und web ! " 


§ I. — Royal and priestly taboos 

In the preceding chapter we saw that in early 
society the king or priest is often thought to be 
endowed with supernatural powers or to be an incar- 
nation of a deity ; in consequence of which the course 
of nature is supposed to be more or less under his 
control, and he is held responsible for bad weather, 
failure of the crops, and similar calamities. Thus far 
it appears to be assumed that the king's power over 
nature, like that over his subjects and slaves, is 
exerted through definite acts of will ; and therefore 
if drought, famine, pestilence, or storms arise, the 
people attribute the misfortune to the negligence or 
guilt of their king, and punish him accordingly with 
stripes and bonds, or, if he remains obdurate, with 
deposition and death. Sometimes, however, the course 
of nature, while regarded as dependent on the king, 
is supposed to be partly independent of his will. His 
person is considered, if we may express it so, as the 


dynamical centre of the universe, from which lines of 
force radiate to all quarters of the heaven ; so that any 
motion of his — the turning of his head, the lifting of 
his hand — instantaneously affects and may seriously 
disturb some part of nature. He is the point of 
support on which hangs the balance of the world ; 
and the slightest irregularity on his part may over- 
throw the delicate equipoise. The greatest care must, 
therefore, be taken both by and of him ; and his whole 
life, down to its minutest details, must be so regulated 
that no act of his, voluntary or involuntary, may dis- 
arrange or upset the established order of nature. Of 
this class of monarchs the Mikado or Dairi, the 
spiritual emperor of Japan, is a typical example. He 
is an incarnation of the sun goddess, the deity who 
rules the universe, gods and men included ; once a 
year all the gods wait upon him and spend a month 
at his court. During that month, the name of which 
means "without gods," no one frequents the temples, 
for they are believed to be deserted.^ 

The following description of the Mikado's mode of 
life was written about two hundred years ago : - — 

" Even to this day the princes descended of this 
family, more particularly those who sit on the throne, 
are looked upon as persons most holy in themselves, 
and as Popes by birth. And, in order to preserve 
these advantageous notions in the minds of their sub- 
jects, they are obliged to take an uncommon care of 
their sacred persons, and to do such things, which, 
examined according to the customs of other nations, 

1 Manners and Customs of the Japan- - Kaempfer, "History of Japan," 

ese in the Nineteenth Centuiy. Fivin in Pinkerton's P'oyages and Travels, 

recent Dutch Visitors to Japan, and the vii. 716 sq. 
German of Dr. Ph. Fr. von Siebold 
(London, 1841), p. 141 sqq. 


would be thought ridiculous and impertinent. It will 
not be improper to give a few instances of it. He 
thinks that it would be very prejudicial to his dignity 
and holiness to touch the ground with his feet ; for this 
reason, when he intends to go anywhere, he must 
be carried thither on men's shoulders. Much less will 
they suffer that he should expose his sacred person to 
the open air, and the sun is not thought worthy to 
shine on his head. There is such a holiness ascribed 
to all the parts of his body, that he dares to cut off 
neither his hair, nor his beard, nor his nails. How- 
ever, lest he should grow too dirty, they may clean 
him in the night when he is asleep ; because, they say, 
that which is taken from his body at that time hath 
been stolen from him, and that such a theft doth not 
prejudice his holiness or dignity. In ancient times, he 
was obliged to sit on the throne for some hours every 
morning, with the imperial crown on his head, but to 
sit altogether like a statue, without stirring either hands 
or feet, head or eyes, nor indeed any part of his body, 
because, by this means, it was thought that he could 
preserve peace and tranquillity in his empire ; for if, 
unfortunately, he turned himself on one side or the 
other, or if he looked a good while towards any part 
of his dominions, it was apprehended that war, famine, 
fire, or some great misfortune was near at hand to 
desolate the country. But it having been afterwards 
discovered that the imperial crown was the palladium 
which by its mobility could preserve peace in the 
empire, it was thought expedient to deliver his 
imperial person, consecrated only to idleness and 
pleasures, from this burthensome duty, and therefore 
the crown is at present placed on the throne for some 
hours every morning. His victuals must be dressed 


every time in new pots, and served at table in new 
dishes : both are very clean and. neat, but made only 
of common clay ; that without any considerable ex- 
pense they may be laid aside, or broken, after they 
have served once. They are generally broke, for fear 
they should come into the hands of laymen, for they 
believe religiously that if any layman should presume 
to eat his food out of these sacred dishes, it would 
swell and inflame his mouth and throat. The like ill 
effect is dreaded from the Dairi's sacred habits ; for 
they believe that if a layman should wear them, with- 
out the Emperor's express leave or command, they 
would occasion swellings and pains in all parts of his 
body." To the same effect an earlier account of the 
Mikado says : "It was considered as a shameful 
degradation for him even to touch the ground with his 
foot. The sun and moon were not even permitted to 
shine upon his head. None of the superfluities of the 
body were ever taken from him, neither his hair, his 
beard, nor his nails were cut. Whatever he eat was 
dressed in new vessels."^ 

Similar priesdy or rather divine kings are found, at 
a lower level of barbarism, on the west coast of Africa. 
At Shark Point near Cape Padron, in Lower Guinea, 
lives the priestly king Kukulu, alone in a wood. He 
may not touch a woman nor leave his house ; indeed 
he may not even quit his chair, in which he is obliged 
to sleep sitting, for if he lay down no wind would arise 
and navigation would be stopped. He regulates 
storms, and in general maintains a wholesome and 

^ Caron, "Account of Japan," in attingebant {quemadmodum et hodie id 

Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, vii. observat) pedes ipsius ten-am : 7-adiis 

613. Compare Varenius, Descriptio Solis caput muiqitam ilhtsti-abatiir: 

regiii Japoniae, p. 11, Nicnqiiam in apertitm aerem non procedcbat, etc. 


equable state of the atmosphere/ In the kingdom of 
Congo (West Africa) there was a supreme pontiff 
called Chitome or Chitombe, whom the negroes re- 
garded as a god on earth and all powerful in heaven. 
Hence before they would taste the new crops they 
offered him the first-fruits, fearing that manifold mis- 
fortunes would befall them if they broke this rule. 
When he left his residence to visit other places within 
his jurisdiction, all married people had to observe strict 
continence the whole time he was out ; for it was sup- 
posed that any act of incontinence would prove fatal 
to him. And if he were to die a natural death, they 
thought that the world would perish, and the earth, 
which he alone sustained by his power and merit, would 
immediately be annihilated..^ Amongst the semi- 
barbarous nations of the New World, at the date of 
the Spanish conquest, there were found hierarchies 
or theocracies like those of Japan. Some of these 
we have already noticed. ^ But the high pontiff of 
the Zapotecs in Southern Mexico appears to have 
presented a still closer parallel to the Mikado. A 
powerful rival to the king himself, this spiritual lord 
governed Yopaa, one of the chief cities of the king- 
dom, with absolute dominion. It is impossible, we 
are told, to over-rate the reverence in which he was 
held. He was looked on as a god whom the earth 
was not worthy to hold nor the sun to shine upon. 
He profaned his sanctity if he even touched the 
ground with his foot. The officers who bore his 
palanquin on their shoulders were members of the 
highest families ; he hardly deigned to look on any- 

1 A. Bastian, Die dentsche Expedi- 2 Labat, Relation historiqiie de 

Hon an der Loatigo-Kiiste, i. 287 sq. ; VEthiopie Occidentale, i. 254 sqq. 
cp. id., p. 353 sq. ^ Above, pp. 44, 49- 

VOL. I ' I 


thing around him ; and all who met him fell with their 
faces to the earth, fearing that death would overtake 
them if they saw even his shadow. A rule of continence 
was regularly imposed on the Zapotec priests, especially 
upon the high pontiff; but "on certain days in each 
year, which were generally celebrated with feasts and 
dances, it was customary for the high priest to become 
drunk. While in this state, seeming to belong neither 
to heaven nor to earth, one of the most beautiful of the 
virgins consecrated to the service of the gods was 
brought to him." If the child she bore him was a 
son, he was brought up as a prince of the blood, 
and the eldest son succeeded his father on the pon- 
tifical throne. ^ The supernatural powers attributed 
to this pontiff are not specified, but probably they 
resembled those of the Mikado and Chitome. 

Wherever, as in Japan and West Africa, it is 
supposed that the order of nature, and even the exis- 
tence of the world, is bound up with the life of the 
king or priest, it is clear that he must be regarded by 
his subjects as a source both of infinite blessing and 
of infinite danger. On the one hand, the people have 
to thank him for the rain and sunshine which foster 
the fruits ot the earth, for the wind which brings ships 
to their coasts, and even for the existence of the earth 
beneath their feet. But what he gives he can 
refuse ; and so close is the dependence of nature on 
his person, so delicate the balance of the system of 
forces whereof he is the centre, that the slightest 
irregularity on his part may set up a tremor which 
shall shake the earth to its foundations. And 

1 Brasseur de Bourbourg, Hist, des nations civilisees du Mexique et de 
V Ameriquc-centrak, iii, 29 sq. ; Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, ii. 
142 sq. 


if nature may be disturbed by the slightest in- 
voluntary act of the king, it is easy to conceive the 
convulsion which his death might occasion. The 
death of the Chitome, as we have seen, was thought 
to entail the destruction of the world. Clearly, there- 
fore, out of a regard for their own safety, which might 
be imperilled by any rash act of the king, and still 
more by his death, the people will exact of their king 
or priest a strict conformity to those rules, the 
observance of which is necessary for his own pre- 
servation, and consequently for the preservation of 
his people and the world. The idea that early 
kingdoms are despotisms in which the people exist 
only for the sovereign, is wholly inapplicable to the 
monarchies we are considering. On the contrary, 
the sovereign in them exists only for his subjects ; 
his life is only valuable so long as he discharges the 
duties of his position by ordering the course of nature 
for his people's benefit. So soon as he fails to do so 
the care, the devotion, the religious homage which 
they had hitherto lavished on him, cease and are 
changed into hatred and contempt ; he is dismissed 
ignominiously, and may be thankful if he escapes with 
his life. Worshipped as a god by them one day, he 
is killed by them as a criminal the next. But in this 
changed behaviour of the people there is nothing capri- 
cious or inconsistent. On the contrary, their conduct 
is entirely of a piece. If their king is their god, he is 
or should be also their preserver ; and if he will not 
preserve them, he must make room for another who 
will. So long, however, as he answers their expecta- 
tions, there is no limit to the care which they take of 
him, and which they compel him to take of himself. 
A king of this sort lives hedged in by a ceremonious 


etiquette, a network of prohibitions and observances, 
of which the intention is not to contribute to his 
dignity, much less to his comfort, but to restrain him 
from conduct which, by disturbing the harmony of 
nature, might involve himself, his people, and the uni- 
verse in one common catastrophe. Far from adding to 
his comfort, these observances, by trammelling his 
every act, annihilate his freedom and often render the 
very life, which it is their object to preserve, a burden 
and sorrow to him. 

Of the supernaturally endowed kings of Loango 
it is said that the more powerful a king is, the 
more taboos is he bound to observe ; they regulate 
all his actions, his walking and his standing, his 
eating and drinking, his sleeping and waking.^ To 
these restraints the heir to the throne is subject from 
infancy ; but as he advances in life the number of 
abstinences and ceremonies which he must observe 
increases, "until at the moment that he ascends the 
throne he is lost in the ocean of rites and taboos."" 
The kings of Egypt, as we have seen,^ were worshipped 
as gods, and the routine of their daily life was regulated 
in every detail by precise and unvarying rules. " The 
life of the kings of Egypt," says Diodorus,"* " was not 
like that of other monarchs who are irresponsible and 
may do just what they choose ; on the contrary, every- 
thing was fixed for them by law, not only their official 
duties, but even the details of their daily life. . . . The 
hours both of day and night were arranged at which 
the king had to do, not what he pleased, but what was 
prescribed for him. . . . For not only were the times 

1 Bastian, Die detitsche Expedition - Dapper, Description de PAfriqite, 

an der Loango- Kiiste, i. 355. p. 336- 

3 P. 49 sq. * Bibl. Hist. i. 70. 


appointed at which he should transact pubhc business 
or sit in judgment ; but the very hours for his walking 
and bathing and sleeping with his wife, and, in short, 
performing every act of life, were all settled. Custom 
enjoined a simple diet ; the only flesh he might eat 
was veal and goose, and he might only drink a pre- 
scribed quantity of wine." Of the taboos imposed on 
priests, the rules of life observed by the Flamen Dialis 
at Rome furnish a striking example. As the worship 
of Virbius at Nemi was conducted, as we have seen,^ 
by a Flamen, who may possibly have been the King 
of the Wood himself, and whose mode of life may have 
resembled that of the Roman Flamen, these rules have 
a special interest for us. They were such as the 
following : The Flamen Dialis might not ride or even 
touch a horse, nor see an army under arms, nor wear 
a ring which was not broken, nor have a knot on any 
part of his garments ; no fire except a sacred fire 
might be taken out of his house ; he might not 
touch wheaten flour or leavened bread ; he might not 
touch or even name a goat, a dog, raw meat, beans, 
and ivy ; he might not walk under a vine ; the feet of 
his bed had to be daubed with mud ; his hair could be 
cut only by a free man and with a bronze knife, and 
his hair and nails when cut had to be buried under a 
lucky tree ; he might not touch a dead body nor enter 
a place where one was burned ; he might not see work 
being done on holy days ; he might not be uncovered 
in the open air ; if a man in bonds were taken into his 
house, he had to be unbound and the cords had to be 
drawn up through a hole in the roof and so let down 
into the street. His wife, the Flaminica, had to 
observe nearly the same rules, and others of her own 


besides. She might not ascend more than three steps 
of the kind of staircase called Greek ; at a certain 
festival she might not comb her hair ; the leather of 
her shoes might not be made from a beast that had 
died a natural death, but only from one that had been 
slain or sacrificed ; if she heard thunder she was 
tabooed till she had offered an expiatory sacrifice.^ 

The burdensome observances attached to the royal 
or priestly office produced their natural effect. Either 
men refused to accept the office, which hence tended 
to fall into abeyance ; or accepting it, they sank under 
its weight into spiritless creatures, cloistered recluses, 
from whose nerveless fingers the reigns of govern- 
ment slipped into the firmer grasp of men who 
were often content to wield the reality of sovereignty 
without its name. In some countries this rift in the 
supreme power deepened into a total and permanent 
separation of the spiritual and temporal powers, the old 
royal house retaining their purely religious functions, 
while the civil government passed into the hands of a 
younger and more vigorous race. 

To take examples. We saw' that in Cambodia 
it is often necessary to force the kingships of Fire 
and Water upon the reluctant successors, and that 
in Savage Island the monarchy actually came to an 
end because at last no one could be induced to 
accept the dangerous distinction.^ In some parts of 
West Africa, when the king dies, a family council 
is secretly held to determine his successor. He on 
whom the choice falls is suddenly seized, bound, and 

1 Aulus Gellius, x. 15; Plutarch, p. 161 A, ed. Miiller. For more details 

Qiiaest. Rom. 109-112; Pliny, Nat. see Marquardt, Komische Slaatsver- 

Hist, xxviii. 146 ; Servius on Virgil, ivaltting, iii. - 326 sqq. 

Aeji. i. vv. 179, 448, iv. 518; Mac- ^ p, ^4, 

robius, Saturn, i. 16, 8 sq. ; Festus, ^ P. 48. 


thrown into the fetish -house, where he is kept in 
durance till he consents to accept the crown. Some- 
times the heir finds means of evading the honour which 
it is sought to thrust upon him ; a ferocious chief has 
been known to go about constantly armed, resolute to 
resist by force any attempt to set him on the throne.^ 
The Mikados of Japan seem early to have resorted to 
the expedient of transferring the honours and burdens 
of supreme power to their infant children ; and the rise 
of the Tycoons, long the temporal sovereigns of the 
country, is traced to the abdication of a certain Mikado 
in favour of his three-year-old son. The sovereignty 
having been wrested by a usurper from the infant 
prince, the cause of the Mikado was championed by 
Yoritomo, a man of spirit and conduct, who overthrew 
the usurper and restored to the Mikado the shadow, 
while he retained for himself the substance, of power. 
He bequeathed to his descendants the dignity he had 
won, and thus became the founder of the line of Tycoons. 
Down to the latter half of the sixteenth century the 
Tycoons were active and efficient rulers ; but the same 
fate overtook them which had befallen the Mikados; 
entangled in the same inextricable web of custom and 
. law, they degenerated into mere puppets, hardly stirring 
from their palaces and occupied in a perpetual round 
of empty ceremonies, while the real business of govern- 
ment was managed by the council of state. ^ In Ton- 
quin the monarchy ran a similar course. Living like 
his predecessors in effeminacy and sloth, the king was 
driven from the throne by an ambitious adventurer 
named Mack, who from a fisherman had risen to be 

^ Bastian, Die deiitsche Expedition 2 Manners and Customs of the Japan- 

an der Loango-Aliste, i. 354 sq. ; ii. ese, pp. 199 sqq. 355 sqq. 
9, II. 


Grand Mandarin. But the king's brother Tring 
put down the usurper and restored the king, re- 
taining, however, for himself and his descendants 
the dignity of general of all the forces. Thence- 
forward the kinoes or dovas, thoup-h vested with the title 
and pomp of sovereignty, ceased to govern. While 
they lived secluded in their palaces, all real political 
power was wielded by the hereditary generals or 
chovas} The custom regularly observed by the Tahi- 
tian kings of abdicating on the birth of a son, who was 
immediately proclaimed sovereign and received his 
father's homage, may perhaps have originated, like the 
similar custom occasionally practised by the Mikados, 
in a wish to shift to other shoulders the irksome burden 
of royalty ; for in Tahiti as elsewhere the sovereign 
was subjected to a system of vexatious restrictions.^ 
In Mangaia, another Polynesian island, religious and 
civil authority were lodged in separate hands, spiritual 
functions being discharged by a line of hereditary kings, 
while the temporal government was entrusted from 
time to time to a victorious war-chief, whose investiture, 
however, had to be completed by the king. To the 
latter were assigned the best lands, and he received 
daily offerings of the choicest food.^ American ex- 
amples of the partition of authority between an 
emperor and a pope have already been cited from the 
early history of Mexico and Colombia.* 

^ Richard, " History of Tonquin," 2 Ellis, Polynesian Researches, iii. 

in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, ix. 99 sqq. ed. 1836. 

744 sqq. 3 Qii]^ Myths and Songs of the South 

Pacific, p. 293 sqq. ■» Pp. 44, 113. 


§ 2. — The natui^e of the soul 

• But if the object of the taboos observed by a 
divine king or priest is to preserve his Hfe, the question 
arises, How is their observance supposed to effect this 
end ? To understand this we must know the nature 
of the danger which threatens the king's Hfe, and which 
it is the intention of the taboos to guard against. We 
must, therefore, ask : What does early man understand 
by death ? To what causes does he attribute it ? 
And how does he think it may be guarded against ? 

As the savage commonly explains the processes of 
inanimate nature by supposing that they are produced 
by living beings working in or behind the phenomena, 
so he explains the phenomena of life itself If an 
animal lives and moves, it can only be, he thinks, be- 
cause there is a little animal inside which moves it. 
If a man lives and moves, it can only be because he 
has a little man inside who moves him. The animal 
inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the 
soul. And as the activity of an animal or man is 
explained by the presence of the soul, so the repose 
of sleep or death is explained by its absence ; sleep 
or trance being the temporary, death being the 
permanent absence of the soul. Hence if death be 
the permanent absence of the soul, the way to guard 
against it is either to prevent the soul from leaving 
the body, or, if it does depart, to secure that it shall 
return. The precautions adopted by savages to secure 
one or other of these ends take the form of prohibi- 
tions or taboos, which are nothing but rules intended 
to ensure either the continued presence or the return 
of the soul. In short, they are life-preservers or life- 


guards. These general statements will now be illus- 
trated by examples. 

Addressing some Australian blacks, a European 
missionary said, "I am not one, as you think, but two." 
Upon this they laughed. "You may laugh as much 
as you like," continued the missionary, " I tell you that 
I am two in one ; this great body that you see is one ; 
within that there is another little one which is not 
visible. The great body dies, and is buried, but the 
little body flies away when the great one dies." To 
this some of the blacks replied, "Yes, yes. We also 
are two, we also have a little body within the breast." 
On being asked where the little body went after death, 
some said it went behind the bush, others said it went 
into the sea, and some said they did not know.^ The 
Hurons thought that the soul had a head and body, 
arms and legs ; in short, that it was a complete little 
model of the man himself^ The Eskimos believe that 
" the soul exhibits the same shape as the body it 
belonq-s to, but is of a more subtle and ethereal nature."^ 
So exact is the resemblance of the mannikin to the 
man, in other words, of the soul to the body, that, as 
there are fat bodies and thin bodies, so there are fat 
souls and thin souls ; ^ as there are heavy bodies and 
light bodies, long bodies and short bodies, so there are 
heavy souls and light souls, long souls and short souls. 
The people of Nias (an island to the w^est of Sumatra) 
think that every man, before he is born, is asked how 
long or how heavy a soul he would like, and a soul of 
the desired weight or length is measured out to him. 

1 Journal of the Anthropological In- ^ h. Rink, Talcs and Traditions of 
stitntc, vii. 282. the Eskimo, p. 36. 

2 Relations des Jesnites, 1634, p. 17; 

id., 1636, p. 104; id., 1639, p. 43 •* Q\\\, RIyths and Songs of the South 

(Canadian reprint). Pacific, p. 1 7 1. 


The heaviest soul ever given out weighs about ten 
grammes. The length of a man's life is proportioned 
to the length of his soul ; children who die young had 
short souls.^ Sometimes, however, as we shall see, the 
human soul is conceived not in human but in animal 

The soul is commonly supposed to escape by the 
natural openings of the body, especially the mouth and 
nostrils. Hence in Celebes they sometimes fasten fish- 
hooks to a sick man's nose, navel, and feet, so that if 
his soul should try to escape it may be hooked and 
held fast.' One of the "properties" of a Haida 
medicine-man is a hollow bone, in which he bottles up 
departing souls, and so restores them to their owners." 
The Marquesans used to hold the mouth and nose of 
a dying man, in order to keep him in life, by prevent- 
ing his soul from escaping.^ When any one yawns 
in their presence the Hindus always snap their thumbs, 
believing that this will hinder the soul from issuing 
through the open mouth. ^ The Itonamas in South 
America seal up the eyes, nose, and mouth of a dying 
person, in case his ghost should get out and carry off 
other people.*^ In Southern Celebes, to prevent the 
escape of a woman's soul at childbirth, the nurse ties a 
band as tightly as possible round the body of the ex- 
pectant mother.' And lest the soul of the babe should 

1 H. Simdermann, " Die Insel Nias ^ Waitz, Anthyopologie der Natur- 
und die Mission daselbst," in AUge- volker, vi. 397 sq. 

vteine Missions - Zeitschrift, bd. xi. 5 Panjab Notes and Queries, ii. No. 

October 1884, p. 453- 665. 

2 B. F. Matthes, Over de Bissoes of , ^'Orbigny, nilonune Americain, 
hezdensche prresters en priesteressen der .._ >rra,,sact. Ethnol. Sac. of 
Boegntezen p 24. ^^^^^^ ...^ Bastian, CuUur- 

G. M Dawson, " On the Haida ,,„,,,,;,, J„ ^,L.7^^, i. 476. 
Indians of the Queen Charlotte Is- 
lands," in C^o/^^^o^Va/ 6-?^;^£>' o/Crt«a^&, " B. F. Matthes, Bijdragen tot 
Beport of Progress for l^^2,-\2>^]9, ^Y>- de Ethnologie van Ziiid - Celebes, p. 
123 B, 139 B. 54- 


escape and be lost as soon as it is born, the Alfoers 
of Celebes, when a birth is about to take place, are 
careful to close every opening in the house, even the 
keyhole ; and they stop up every chink and cranny in 
the walls. Also they tie up the mouths of all animals 
inside and outside the house, for fear one of them 
miaht swallow the child's soul. For a similar reason 
all persons present in the house, even the mother 
herself are obliged to keep their mouths shut the 
whole time the birth is taking place. When the 
question was put, Why they did not hold their noses 
also, lest the child's soul should get into one of them ? 
the answer was that breath being exhaled as well as 
inhaled through the nostrils, the soul would be ex- 
pelled before it could have time to settle down.^ 

Often the soul is con'ceived as a bird ready to take 
flight. This conception has probably left traces in 
most languages,- and it lingers as a metaphor in poetry. 
But what is metaphor to a modern European poet 
was sober earnest to his savage ancestor, and is still 
so to many people. The Malays carry out the 
conception in question to its practical conclusion. If 
the soul is a bird on the wing, it may be attracted by 
rice, and so prevented from taking its perilous flight. 
Thus in Java when a child is placed on the ground for 
the first time (a moment which uncultured people seem 
to regard as especially dangerous), it is put in a hen- 
coop and the mother makes a clucking sound, as if she 
were calling hens.^ Amongst the Battas of Sumatra, 
when a man returns from a dangerous enterprise, grains 
of rice are placed on his head, and these grains are 

1 Zimmermann, Die Iiisdn des In- ^ G. A. Wilken, " Het animisme 
dischen mid Stilkn Meeres, ii. 386 sq. bij de \olken van den Indischen 

2 Cp. the Greek TrordofMi, dva- Archipel," in De Indische Gtds, June 
TTTepow, etc. 1SS4, p. 944. 


z2iS[^A padiriuna tondi, that is, " means to make the soul 
{tondi) stay at home." In Java also rice is placed on 
the head of persons who have escaped a great danger 
or have returned home unexpectedly after it had been 
supposed that they were lost/ In Celebes they 
think that a bridegroom's soul is apt to fly away at 
marriap-e, so coloured rice is scattered over him to 
induce it to stay. And, in general, at festivals in 
South Celebes rice is strewed on the head of the 
person in whose honour the festival is held, with the 
object of detaining his soul, which at such times is 
in especial danger of being lured away by envious 

The soul of a sleeper is supposed to wander away 
from his body and actually to visit the very places of 
which he dreams. But this absence of the soul has its 
dangers, for if from any cause it should be permanently 
detained away from the body, the person, deprived of 
his soul, must die.^ Many causes may detain the 
sleeper's soul. Thus, his soul may meet the soul of 
another sleeper and the two souls may fight ; if a 
Guinea negro wakens with sore bones in the morning, 
he thinks that his soul has been thrashed by another 
soul in sleep.* Or it may meet the soul of a person 
just deceased and be carried off by it ; hence in the 
Aru Islands the inmates of a house will not sleep the 
night after a death has taken place in it, because the 
soul of the deceased is supposed to be still in the house 

^ Wilken, I.e. former means the sound made in calling 

2 B. F. Matthes, Bijdragen tot de fowls, and the latter means the soul. The 

EtJutologie van Zuid-Celebes, p. 33 ; id., expression for the ceremonies described 

Oc>er de Bissoes of heidensche priesters in the text is dpakoerroe soeJ>idngd. 
en priesteresseti der Boeginezen, p. 9 se/.; 3 Shvvay Yoe, The Burman, his Life 

id., Makassaarsch- Holla?tdsch Woor- and Notions, ii. 1 00. 
denboek, szw. Koerroe and soemauga, pp. * J. L. Wilson, West Afrika, p. 162 

41, 569. Of these two words, the sq. (German translation). 


and they fear to meet it in a dream/ Again, the soul 
may be prevented by physical force from returning. 
The Santals tell how a man fell asleep, and growing 
very thirsty, his soul, in the form of a lizard, left his 
body and entered a pitcher of water to drink. Just 
then the owner of the pitcher happened to cover it ; 
so the soul could not return to the body and the man 
died. While his friends were preparing to burn the 
body some one uncovered the pitcher to get water. 
The lizard thus escaped and returned to the body, 
which immediately revived ; so the man rose up and 
asked his friends why they were weeping. They told 
him they thought he was dead and were about to burn 
his body. He said he had been down a well to get 
water but had found it hard to get out and had just 
returned. So they saw it all.- A similar story is 
reported from Transylvania as follows. In the account 
of a witch's trial at Mtihlbach last century it is said 
that a woman had engaged two men to work in her 
vineyard. After noon they all lay down to rest as 
usual. An hour later the men got up and tried to 
waken the woman, but could not. She lay motionless 
with her mouth wide open. They came back at sun- 
set and still she lay like a corpse. Just at that moment 
a big fly came buzzing past, which one of the men 
caught and shut up in his leathern pouch. Then 
they tried again to waken the woman but could not. 
Afterwards they let out the fly ; it flew straight into 
the woman's mouth and she awoke. On seeing 

1 J. G. F. Riedel, De sliiik-cn - Indian Antiquary, 1878, vii. 

kroesharige rassen tiisschen Selebcs en 273 ; Bastian, Vdlkerstdmme am 

Papua, p. 267. For detention of Brahmaputra, p. 1 27. Similar story 

sleeper's soul by spirits and consequent (lizard form of soul not mentioned) told 

illness, see also Mason, quoted in by Hindus, Panjab Notes and Queries, 

Bastian's /)«> Volker desostlichenAsien, iii. No. 679. 
ii. 387 note. 


this the men had no further doubt that she was 
a witch. ^ 

It is a common rule with primitive people not to 
waken a sleeper, because his soul is away and might 
not have time to get back ; so if the man wakened 
without his soul, he would fall sick. If it is 
absolutely necessary to waken a sleeper, it must be 
done very gradually, to allow the soul time to 
return.- In Bombay it is thought equivalent to 
murder to change the appearance of a sleeper, as 
by painting his face in fantastic colours or giving 
moustaches to a sleeping woman. For when the 
soul returns, it will not be able to recognise its 
body and the person will die.^ The Servians believe 
that the soul of a sleeping witch often leaves her body 
in the form of a butterfly. If during its absence her 
body be turned round, so that her feet are placed 
where her head was before, the butterfly soul will not 
find its way back into her body through the mouth, 
and the witch will die.'* 

But in order that a man's soul should quit his 
body, it is not necessary that he should be asleep. 

^ E. Gerard, The Land beyond the in the form of a white mouse. Bir- 

Forest,n. 2"] sq. A similar story is told linger, Volksthiimliches a2is Schwaben, 

in Holland, J. W. Wolf, Nedej'landsche i. 303. 

6'«^£'«, No. 251, p. 344 5(7. The stories ^ Shway Yoe, The Biirman, ii. 

of Hermotimus and King Gunthram 103 ; Bastian, Die Volker des ostlichen 

belong to the same class. In the Asien, ii. 389; Blumentritt, " Der 

latter the king's soul comes out of Ahnencultus und die religiosen 

his mouth as a small reptile. The Anschauungen der Malaien des 

soul of Aristeas issued from his Philippinen - Archipels," in 3fii- 

mouth in the form of a raven. theilungen d. Wiener Geogr. Gesellschaft, 

Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. § 174; 1882, p. 209; Riedel, De sluik-en 

Lucian, lilnsc. Encom. 7 ; Paulus, kroesharige rassen tusschen Selebes 

Hist. Langobardorum, iii. 34. In en Paptia, p. 440 ; id., "Die I^and- 

an East Indian stoiy of the same schaft Dawan oder West-Timor," in 

type the sleeper's soul issues from Deutsche Geog7'aphische Blatter, x. 280. 

his nose in tlie form of a cricket. ^ Panjab Notes and Queries, iii. 

Wilken in De Indische Gids, June No. 530. 

1884, p. 940. In a Swabian stoiy ^ Ralston, Songs of the Russian 

a girl's soul creeps out of her mouth People, p. 1 1 7 sq. 


It may quit him in his waking hours, and then 
sickness or (if the absence is prolonged) death will 
be the result. Thus the Mongols sometimes 
explain sickness by supposing that the patient's 
soul is absent, and either does not care to return 
to its body or cannot find the way back. To 
secure the return of the soul it is therefore neces- 
sary on the one hand to make its body as 
attractive as possible, and on the other hand to 
show it the way home. To make the body at- 
tractive all the sick man's best clothes and most 
valued possessions are placed beside him ; he 
is washed, incensed, and made as comfortable as 
possible ; and all his friends march thrice round the 
hut calling out the sick man's name and coaxing 
his soul to return. To help the soul to find its way 
back a coloured cord is stretched from the patient's 
head to the door of the hut. The priest in his 
robes reads a list of the horrors of hell and the 
dangers incurred by souls which wilfully absent 
themselves from their bodies. Then turning to the 
assembled friends and the patient he asks, "Is it 
come?" All answer Yes, and bowing to the re- 
turning soul throw seed over the sick man. The 
cord which guided the soul back is then rolled up 
and placed round the patient's neck, who must wear 
it for seven days without taking it off. No one 
may frighten or hurt him, lest his soul, not yet 
familiar with its body, should again take flight.^ In 
an Indian story a king conveys his soul into the dead 
body of a Brahman, and a hunchback conveys his soul 
into the deserted body of the king. The hunchback 
is now king and the king is a Brahman. However, 

1 Bastian, Die Seek ujtd ihre Erscheinimgwesen in der Ethnographie, p. 36. 


the hunchback is induced to show his skill by trans- 
ferring his soul to the dead body of a parrot, and the 
king seizes the opportunity to regain possession of 
his own body.^ In another Indian story a Brahman 
reanimates the dead body of a king by conveying 
his own soul into it. Meantime the Brahman's 
body has been burnt, and his soul is obliged to remain 
in the body of the king.'^ 

The departure of the soul is not always volun- 
tary. It may be extracted from the body against its 
will by ghosts, demons, or sorcerers. Hence, when 
a funeral is passing the house, the Karens of Burma 
tie their children with a special kind of string to a 
particular part of the house, in case the souls of 
the children should leave their bodies and go into 
the corpse which is passing. The children are 
kept tied in this way until the corpse is out of sight.^ 
And after the corpse has been laid in the grave, but 
before the earth has been filled in, the mourners and 
friends range themselves round the grave, each 
with a bamboo split lengthwise in one hand and a 
little stick in the other ; each man thrusts his bamboo 
into the grave, and drawing the stick along the 
groove of the bamboo points out to his soul that 
in this way it may easily climb up out of the grave. 
While the earth is being filled in, the bamboos are 
kept out of the way, lest the souls should be in 
them, and so should be inadvertently buried with 
the earth as it is being thrown into the grave ; and 
when the people leave the spot they carry away 
the bamboos, begging their souls to come with 

1 Pantschatanira,^<tXi'ity,^.\i\sqq. ^ £. b. Cross, "On the Karens," 

2 Katha Sarit Sagara, trans. Taw- in Journal of the American Oriental 
ney, i. 21 sq. Society, iv. 31 1. 



them.^ Further, on returning from the grave each 
Karen provides himself with three Httle hooks made 
of branches of trees, and calHng his spirit to follow 
him, at short intervals, as he returns, he makes a 
motion as if hooking it, and then thrusts the hook 
into the ground. This is done to prevent the soul 
of the living from staying behind with the soul of 
the dead.- When a mother dies leaving a young 
baby, the Burmese think that the " butterfly " or 
soul of the baby follows that of the mother, and that 
if it is not recovered the child must die. So a wise 
woman is called in to get back the baby's soul. She 
places a mirror near the corpse, and on the mirror a 
piece of feathery cotton down. Holding a cloth in 
her open hands at the foot of the mirror, she with wild 
words entreats the mother not to take with her the 
" butterfly " or soul of her child, but to send it back. 
As the gossamer down slips from the face of the 
mirror she catches it in the cloth and tenderly places 
it on the baby's breast. The same ceremony is some- 
times observed when one of two children that have 
played together dies, and is thought to be luring away 
the soul of its playmate to the spirit -land. It is some- 
times performed also for a bereaved husband or wife.^ 
In the Island of Keisar (East Indies) it is thought im- 
prudent to go near a grave at night, lest the ghosts 
should catch and keep the soul of the passer-by.^ The 
Key Islanders believe that the souls of their fore- 
fathers, angry at not receiving food, make people sick 
by detaining their souls. So they lay offerings of food 

^ A. R. M'Mahon, Tlie Karens of Burma, p. 99 sq. ; Shway Yoe, The 
the Golden Chersonese, p. 318. Burman, ii. 102 ; Bastian, Die 

2 F. Mason, "Physical Character of Volker des ostlichen Asien, ii. 389. 

the Karens," in /ournal 0/ the A sia/ic * Riedel, De shiik-en kroesharige 

Society of Bengal, 1866, pt. ii. p. 28 j-^. rassen iusschen Selebes en Papua, 

3 C. J. S. F. Forbes, British p. 414. 


on the grave and beg their ancestors to allow the 
soul of the sick to return or to drive it home speedily 
if it should be lingering by the way,^ 

In Bolang Mongondo, a district in the west of 
Celebes, all sickness is ascribed to the ancestral spirits 
who have carried off the patient's soul. The object 
therefore is to bring back the patient's soul and restore 
it to the sufferer. An eye-witness has thus described 
the attempted cure of a sick boy. The priestesses, 
who acted as physicians, made a doll of cloth and 
fastened it to the point of a spear, which an old woman 
held upright. Round this doll the priestesses danced, 
uttering charms, and chirruping as when one calls a 
dog. Then the old woman lowered the point of the 
spear a little, so that the priestesses could reach the 
doll. By this time the soul of the sick boy was sup- 
posed to be in the doll, having been brought into it by 
the incantations. So the priestesses approached it 
cautiously on tiptoe and caught the soul in the many- 
coloured cloths which they had been waving in the air. 
Then they laid the soul on the boy's head, that is, they 
wrapped his head in the cloth in which the soul was 
supposed to be, and stood still for some moments with 
great gravity, holding their hands on the patient's 
head. Suddenly there was a jerk, the priestesses 
whispered and shook their heads, and the cloth was 
taken off — the soul had escaped. The priestesses 
gave chase to it, running round and round the house, 
clucking and gesticulating as if they were driving hens 
into a poultry-yard. At last they recaptured the soul 
at the foot of the stair and restored it to its owner 
as before.^ Much in the same way an Australian 

1 Riedel, op. cit. p. 221 sq Bolaang Mongondou, " in yIic'r/t'(/£^/?«_^ifM 

'- N. Ph. Wilken en J. A. Schwarz, van wege het Nederlandsche Zendeling- 
" Het heidendom en de Islam in genootschap, 1867, xi. 263 j-i^'. 


medicine-man will sometimes bring the lost soul of a 
sick man into a puppet and restore it to the patient by 
pressing the puppet to his breast.^ In Uea, one of the 
Loyalty Islands, the souls of the dead seem to have 
been credited with the power of stealing the souls of 
the living. For when a man was sick the soul-doctor 
would go with a large troop of men and women to the 
graveyard. Here the men played on flutes and the 
women whistled softly to lure the soul home. After 
this had gone on for some time they formed in pro- 
cession and moved homewards, the flutes playing and 
the women whistling all the way, leading back the 
wandering soul and driving it gently along with open 
palms. On entering the patient's dwelling they com- 
manded the soul in a loud voice to enter his body." 
In Madagascar, when a sick man had lost his soul, his 
friends went to the family tomb, and making a hole in 
it, begged the soul of the patient's father to give them 
a soul for his son, who had none. So saying they 
clapped a bonnet on the hole, and folding up the soul 
in the bonnet, brought it to the patient, who put the 
bonnet on his head, and thus received a new soul or 
got back his old one.^ 

Often the abduction of a man's soul is set down to 
demons. The Annamites believe that when a man 
meets a demon and speaks to him, the demon inhales 
the man's breath and soul.^ When a Dyak is about to 
leave a forest through which he has been walking- 
alone, he never forgets to ask the demons to give him 
back his soul, for it may be that some forest-devil has 

1 James Dawson, Atistralian Abor- in De Indische Gids, June 1884, p. 
igi7ies, ^. SI ^1- 937- 

„ ,,r ITT /-^-ii irw I c- r ■* Landes, " Contes et legendes anna- 
's W. W. Gill, jMyt/is and So/ips of .^ jjivt 1^- ^ 7 • 7 • t- 
,,„,,„.^' ' ^ J mite?,, iSo-To in Coc/nnchine rrajicaisc, 
the Soiitli racific, p. 171 .w. c- ■ j r> ■ -ki ' „- 
■^ ' ' ' ■' iLxciirsioiis et Reconnaissances, JNo. 23, 

2 G. A. Wilken, " Het animisme," p. 80. 


carried it off. For the abduction of a soul may take 
place without its owner being aware of his loss, and it 
may happen either while he is awake or asleep/ In 
the Moluccas when a man is unwell it is thought that 
some devil has carried away his soul to the tree, 
mountain, or hill where he (the devil) dwells. A sor- 
cerer having pointed out the devil's abode, the friends 
of the patient carry thither cooked rice, fruit, fish, raw 
eggs, a hen, a chicken, a silken robe, gold, armlets, 
etc. Having set out the food in order they pray, 
saying : " We come to offer to you, O devil, this offer- 
ing of food, clothes, gold, etc. ; take it and release the 
soul of the patient for whom we pray. Let it return 
to his body and he who now is sick shall be made 
whole." Then they eat a little and let the hen loose 
as a ransom for the soul of the patient ; also they put 
down the raw eggs ; but the silken robe, the gold, and 
the armlets they take home with them. As soon as 
they are come to the house they place a flat bowl con- 
taining the offerings which have been brought back at 
the sick man's head, and say to him : "Now is your 
soul released, and you shall fare well and live to gray 
hairs on the earth."" A more modern account from 
the same region describes how the friend of the 
patient, after depositing his offerings on the spot where 
the missing soul is supposed to be, calls out thrice the 
name of the sick person, adding, " Come with me, 
come with me." Then he returns, making a motion 
with a cloth as if he had caught the soul in it. He 
must not look to right or left or speak a word to any 
one he meets, but must go straight to the patient's 
house. At the door he stands, and calling out the sick 

1 Perelaer, Etlmographische Be- '^ Fr. Valentyn, Otid en nieinv Oost- 

schrijvmg der Dajaks, p. 26 sq. Indien, iii. 13 sq. 



person's name, asks whether he is returned. Being 
answered from within that he is returned, he enters 
and lays the cloth in which he has caught the soul on 
the patient's throat, saying, " Now you are returned to 
the house." Sometimes a substitute is provided ; a 
doll, dressed up in gay clothing and tinsel, is offered to 
the demon in exchange for the patient's soul with these 
words, " Give us back the ugly one which you have 
taken away and receive this pretty one instead." ^ 
Similarly the Mongols make up a horse of birch-bark 
and a doll, and invite the demon to take the doll 
instead of the patient and to ride away on the horse.'-^ 

Demons are especially feared by persons who have 
just entered on a new house. Hence at a house- 
warming among the Alfoers of Celebes the priest 
performs a ceremony for the purpose of restoring 
their souls to the inmates. He hangs up a bag at the 
place of sacrifice and then goes through a list of the 
gods. There are so many of them that this takes 
him the whole night through without stopping. In 
the morning he offers the gods an egg and some rice. 
By this time the souls of the household are supposed to 
be gathered in the bag. So the priest takes the bag, 
and holding it on the head of the master of the house 
says, " Here you have your soul — go (soul) to-morrow 
away again." He then does the same, saying the same 
words, to the housewife and all the other members of 
the family.^ Amongst the same Alfoers one way of 

^ Van Schmidt, " Aanteekeningen, Gmelin, Reise diirch Sibinen, ii. 359 

nopens de zeden, gewoonten en gebiui- sq. 

ken, benevens de vooroordeelen en bij- ^ V. N. Wilken, " Bijdragen tot de 

gelovigheden der bevolking van de kennis van de zeden en gewoonten der 

eilanden Saparoea, Haroekoe, Noessa Alfoeren in de Minahassa," in Mede- 

Laut, en van een gedeelte van de zuid- deelingen van wege het Nederlandsche 

kust van Ceram," in Tijdschrift voor Zendelinggenootschap, 1863, vii. 146 sq. 

Neerland's Indie, 1843, dl. ii. 511 sqq. Why the priest, after restoring the soul, 

2 Bastian, Die Seele, p. 36 sq. ; J. G. tells it to go avi'ay again, is not clear. 



recovering a sick man's soul is to let down a bowl 
by a belt out of a window and fish for the soul till 
it is caught in the bowl and hauled up.^ Among 
the same people, when a priest is bringing back a 
sick man's soul which he has caught in a cloth, 
he is preceded by a girl holding the large leaf of a 
certain palm over his head as an umbrella to keep 
him and the soul from getting wet, in case it should 
rain ; and he is followed by a man brandishing a 
sword to deter other souls from any attempt at 
rescuing the captured soul.^ 

The Samoans tell how two young wizards, pass- 
ing a house where a chief lay very sick, saw a 
company of gods from the mountain sitting in the 
doorway. They were handing from one to another 
the soul of the dying chief. It was wrapped in 
a leaf, and had been passed from the gods inside 
the house to those sitting in the doorway. One of 
the gods handed the soul to one of the wizards, 
taking him for a god in the dark, for It was night. 
Then all the gods rose up and went away ; but the 
wizard kept the chiefs soul. In the morning some 
women went with a present of fine mats to fetch a 
famous physician. The wizards were sitting on the 
shore as the women passed, and they said to the 
women, " Give us the mats and we will heal him." 
So they went to the chief's house. He was very 111, 
his jaw hung down, and his end seemed near. But 
the wizards undid the leaf and let the soul into him 
again, and forthwith he brightened up and llved.^ 

The Battas of Sumatra believe that the soul of a 

1 Riedel, " De Minahasa in 1825," 2 n. Graafland, De Miimkassa, 

in Tijdschrift voor Itidische Taal-Latid- 327 sq. 
en Volkenkunde, xviii. 523. ^ G. Turner, Samoa, p. 142 sq. 


living man may transmigrate into the body of an 
animal. Hence, for example, the doctor is sometimes 
desired to extract the patient's soul from the body 
of a fowl, in which it has been hidden away by an evil 

Sometimes the lost soul is brought back in a 
visible shape. In Melanesia a woman knowing that 
a neighbour was at the point of death heard a rust- 
ling in her house, as of a moth fluttering, just at 
the moment when a noise of weeping and lamen- 
tation told her that the soul was flown. She caught 
the fluttering thing between her hands and ran 
with it, crying out that she had caught the soul. 
But though she opened her hands above the 
mouth of the corpse, it did not revive.^ The 
Salish or Flathead Indians of Oregon believe that 
a man's soul may be separated for a time from his 
body without causing death and without the man 
being aware of his loss. It is necessary, however, 
that the lost soul should be soon found and restored 
to the man or he will die. The name of the man who 
has lost his soul is revealed in a dream to the 
medicine -man, who hastens to inform the sufferer of 
his loss. Generally a number of men have sustained 
a like loss at the same time ; all their names are 
revealed to the medicine-man, and all employ him to 
recover their souls. The whole night long these 
soulless men go about the village from lodge to lodge, 
dancing and singing. Towards daybreak they go 
into a separate lodge, which is closed up so as to be 

^ J. B. Neumann, " Het Pane en meer uitgebreide artikelen, No. 2 

Bila - stioomgebied op het eiland (1886), p. 302. 

Sumatra," in Tijdschrift van het - Codrington, " Religious Beliefs and 

Nedcrlandsch Aardrijksktindig Genoot- Practices in Melanesia, " in Jow-nal of 

schapy ii. de Serie, dl. iii., Afdeeling : tlic Anthropological Institute, x. 281. 


totally dark. A small hole is then made in the roof, 
through which the medicine -man, with a bunch of 
feathers, brushes in the souls, in the shape of bits of 
bone and the like, which he receives on a piece of 
matting. A fire is next kindled, by the light of which 
the medicine-man sorts out the souls. First he puts 
aside the souls of dead people, of which there are 
usually several ; for if he were to give the soul of a 
dead person to a living man, the man would die 
instantly. Next he picks out the souls of all the 
persons present, and making them all to sit down 
before him, he takes the soul of each, in the shape of 
a splinter of bone, wood, or shell, and placing it on 
the owner's head, pats it with many prayers and 
contortions till it descends into the heart and so 
resumes its proper place.^ In Amboina the sorcerer, 
to recover a soul detained by demons, plucks a branch 
from a tree, and waving it to and fro as if to catch 
something, calls out the sick man's name. Returning 
he strikes the patient over the head and body with 
the branch, into which the lost soul is supposed to 
have passed, and from which it returns to the patient." 
In the Babar Islands offerings for evil spirits are 
laid at the root of a great tree {ivokiorai), from which 
a leaf is plucked and pressed on the patient's forehead 
and breast ; the lost soul, which is in the leaf, is thus 
restored to its owner.^ In some other islands of the 
same seas, when a man returns ill and speechless from 
the forest, it is inferred that the evil spirits which 
dwell in the great trees have caught and kept his 

1 Horatio Hale, U. S. Exploring 2 Rjedel, De sluik - en kroesharige 

Expedition, Ethnography atid Philology, rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, p. 

p. 208 sq. Cp. Wilkes, Nar7-ative of the 11 sq. 
U.S. Exploring Expedition (London, 
1845), iv. 448 sq. ^ //'. p- 356 sq. 


soul. Offerings of food are therefore left under a tree 
and the soul is brought home in a piece of wax.^ 
Amongst the Dyaks of Sarawak the priest conjures 
the lost soul into a cup, where it is seen by the 
uninitiated as a lock of hair, but by the initiated as a 
miniature human being. This is supposed to be 
thrust by the priest into a hole in the top of the 
patient's head.^ In Nias the sick man's soul is 
restored to him in the shape of a firefly, visible only 
to the sorcerer, who catches it in a cloth and places it 
on the forehead of the patient.^ 

Again, souls may be extracted from their bodies or 
detained on their wanderings not only by ghosts and 
demons but also by men, especially by sorcerers. In 
Fiji if a criminal refused to confess, the chief sent for 
a scarf with which "to catch away the soul of the 
rogue." At the sight, or even at the mention of the 
scarf the culprit generally made a clean breast. For if 
he did not, the scarf would be waved over his head till 
his soul was caught in it, when it would be carefully 
folded up and nailed to the end of a chiefs canoe ; and 
for want of his soul the criminal would pine and die.** 
The sorcerers of Danger Island used to set snares for 
souls. The snares were made of stout cinet, about 
fifteen to thirty feet long, with loops on either side of 
different sizes, to suit the different sizes of souls ; for 
fat souls there were large loops, for thin souls there 
were small ones. When a man was sick against whom 
the sorcerers had a grudge, they set up these soul- 

1 Riedel, op. cit. p. 376. slag omtrent het Eiland Nias," in Ver- 

- Spenser St. John, Life in the handel. van hct Batav. Genootsch. van 

Forests of the Fa)- Easi, I. 189. Some- A'linsten e7i Wdenschappen, xxx. 1 16; 

times the souls resemble cotton seeds V.osQnhexg, Der Malayiscke Archipel,\>. 

{ih.) Cp. id. i. 183. 174. 

3 Nieuwenhuisen en Rosenberg, "Ver- * \<!\\\\a.\\\s,FiJiandthe Fijians, \.2^o. 


snares near his house and watched for the flight of his 
soul. If in the shape of a bird or an insect it was 
caught in the snare the man would infallibly die/ 
Among the Sereres of Senegambia, when a man wishes 
to revenge himself on his enemy he goes to the Fitanre 
(chief and priest in one), and prevails on him by pre- 
sents to conjure the soul of his enemy into a large jar 
of red earthenware, which is then deposited under a 
consecrated tree. The man whose soul is shut up in 
the jar soon dies." Some of the Congo negroes think 
that enchanters can get possession of human souls, and 
enclosing them in tusks of ivory, sell them to the white 
man, who makes them work for him in his country 
under the sea. It is believed that very many of the 
coast labourers are men thus obtained ; so when these 
people go to trade they often look anxiously about for 
their dead relations. The man whose soul is thus sold 
into slavery will die "in due course, if not at the time."" 
In Hawaii there were sorcerers who caught souls 
of living people, shut them up in calabashes, and gave 
them to people to eat. By squeezing a captured soul 
in their hands they discovered the place where people 
had been secretly buried.^ Amongst the Canadian 
Indians, when a wizard wished to kill a man, he sent 
out his familiar spirits, who brought him the victim's 
soul in the shape of a stone or the like. The wizard 
struck the soul with a sword or an axe till it bled pro- 
fusely, and as it bled the man to whom it belonged 
languished and died.^ In Amboina if a doctor is con- 

1 Gill, Myths and Songs of the South ' W. H. Bentley, Life on the Congo 

Pacific,^. 171; id.. Life in the Southern (London, 1887), p. 71. 
Isles, p. 181 sqq. •* Bastian, AUerld aiis Volks-unJ 

- L. J. B. Berenger-Feraud, Les Menschenkunde {QexYm, 1888), i. 119. 
Peicf/ades de la Senegatnbie ['P3.ns,i?,']<)), ^ Relations des Jesuites, 1637, p. 

p. 277. 50. 


vinced that a patient's soul has been carried away by a 
demon beyond recovery, he seeks to supply its place 
with a soul abstracted from another man. For this 
purpose he goes by night to a house and asks, "Who's 
there ?" If an inmate is incautious enough to answer, 
the doctor takes up from before the door a clod of 
earth, into which the soul of the person who replied is 
believed to have passed. This clod the doctor lays 
under the sick man's pillow, and performs certain cere- 
monies by which the stolen soul is conveyed into the 
patient's body. Then as he goes home the doctor 
fires two shots to frighten the soul from returning to 
its proper owner.^ A Karen wizard will catch the 
wandering soul of a sleeper and transfer it to the 
body of a dead man. The latter, therefore, comes to 
life as the former dies. But the friends of the sleeper 
in turn engage a wizard to steal the soul of another 
sleeper, who dies as the first sleeper comes to life. In 
this way an indefinite succession of deaths and resur- 
rections is supposed to take place.- 

The Indians of the Nass River, British Columbia, 
think that a doctor may swallow his patient's soul by 
mistake. A doctor who is believed to have done so 
is made by the other doctors to stand over the patient, 
while one of them thrusts his fingers down the doctor's 
throat, another kneads him in the stomach with his 
knuckles, and a third slaps him on the back. If the 
soul is not in him after all, and if the same process has 
been repeated upon all the doctors without success, it 
is concluded that the soul must be in the head-doctor's 
box. A party of doctors, therefore, waits upon him at 

1 Riedel, De shnk-en kroesharige ^ £_ -^ Cross, "On the Karens," in 

rassen tusscken Selebes en Papua, p. Journal of the American Oriental 
78 s(j. Society, iv. 307. 



his house and requests him to produce his box. When 
he has done so and arranged its contents on a new 
mat, they take him and hold him up by the heels with 
his head in a hole in the floor. In this position they 
wash his head, and "any water remaining from the 
ablution is taken and poured upon the sick man's 

Other examples of the recall and recovery of souls 
will be found referred to beneath." 

But the spiritual dangers I have enumerated are 
not the only ones which beset the savage. Often he 
regards his shadow or reflection as his soul, or at all 

1 J. B. McCullagh in The Church 
Missionaiy Gleaner, xiv. No. 164 
(August 1887), p. 91. The same ac- 
count is copied from the "North Star" 
(Sitka, Alaska, December 1888), in 

Journal of Amei-ican Folk-lore, ii. 
74 sq. Mr. McCullagh's account 
(which is closely followed in the text) 
of the latter part of the custom is not 
quite clear. It would seem that failing 
to find the soul in the head-doctor's box 
it occurs to them that he may have 
swallowed it, as the other doctors were 
at first supposed to have done. With 
a view of testing this hypothesis they 
hold him up by the heels to empty out 
the soul ; and as the water with which 
his head is washed may possibly contain 
the missing soul, it is poured on the 
patient's head to restore the soul to him. 
We have already seen that the recovered 
soul is often conveyed into the sick 
person's head. 

2 Riedel, De Topantiimiasn of oor- 
spronkelijke volksstainmen van- Central 
Selehes (overgedrukt uit de Bijdragen 
tot de Taal-Latid-en Volkenkunde van 
Nedei'landsch-Indi'e, 5e volgr. i.), p. 17; 
Neumann, " Het Pane en Bila-stroom- 
gebied," in Tijdschrift van het Neder- 
landsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap, 
ii. de Serie, dl. iii., Afdeeling : meer 
uitgebreide artikelen, No. 2 (1886), p. 
2,00 sq.\ Priklonski, "Die Jakuten," 
in Bastian's Allerlei aiis Volks-und 

Alenschenkunde, ii. 218 sq. ; Bastian, 
Die Volker des dstUchen Asien, ii. 388, 
iii. 236 ; id., Volker stiimme am Brah- 
maputra, p. 23; id., " Hiigelstamme 
Assam's," in Verhandlmigen d. Berliti. 
Gesell. f. Anthropol. Ethnol. und 
U7-geschichte, 1881, p. 156; Shway 
Yoe, The Bur matt, i. 283 j^., ii. 10 1 
sq. ; Sproat, Scenes and Studies of Savage 
Life, p. 2 14 ; Doolittle, Social Life of the 
Chinese, p. \io sq. (ed. Paxton Hood) ; 
T. Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, i. 
242; E. B. Cross, "On the Karens," 
in Journal of the American Oriental 
Society, iv. 309 sq. ; A. W. Howitt, 
" On some Australian Beliefs," in 
Journ. Anthrop. Instit. xiii. 187 sq. ; 
id., " On Australian Medicine Men," in 
Journ. Anthrop. List. xvi. 41 ; E. P. 
Houghton, "On the Land Dayaks of 
Upper Sarawak," in Memoirs of the 
Anthropological Society of London, iii. 
196 sq. ; L. Dahle, " Sikidy and 
Vintana," in Antanatiarivo Annual and 
Madagascar Annual, xi. (1887) p. 
320 sq. ; C. Leemius, De Lapponibus 
Fin?na>-chiae eoru7nque lingua, vita et 
religione pristina commentatio (Copen- 
hagen, 1767), p. 416 sq. Some time 
ago my friend Professor W. Robertson 
Smith suggested to me that the practice 
of hunting souls, which is denounced in 
Ezekiel xiii. 17 sqq. must have been 
akin to those described in the text. 


events as a vital part of himself, and as such it is 
necessarily a source of danger to him. For if it is 
trampled upon, struck, or stabbed, he will feel the 
injury as if it were done to his person ; and if it is 
detached from him entirely (as he believes that it may 
be) he will die. In the island of Wetar there are 
magicians who can make a man ill by stabbing his 
shadow with a pike or hacking it with a sword. ^ 
After Sankara had destroyed the Buddhists in India, 
it is said that he journeyed to Nepaul, where he had 
some difference of opinion with the Grand Lama. To 
prove his supernatural powers, he soared into the air. 
But as he mounted up, the Grand Lama, perceiving 
his shadow swaying and wavering on the ground, 
struck his knife into it and down fell Sankara and 
broke his neck.^ In the Babar Islands the demons get 
power over a man's soul by holding fast his shadow, or 
by striking and wounding it.^ There are stones in 
Melanesia on which, if a man's shadow falls, the demon 
of the stone can draw out his soul."* In Amboina and 
Uliase, two islands near the equator, and where, 
therefore, there is little or no shadow cast at noon, it 
is a rule not to go out of the house at mid-day, because 
it is supposed that by doing so a man may lose the 
shadow of his soul.^ The Mangaians tell of a mighty 
warrior, Tukaitawa, whose strength waxed and waned 
with the length of his shadow. In the morning, when 
his shadow fell longest, his strength was greatest ; but 
as the shadow shortened towards noon his strength 
ebbed with it, till exactly at noon it reached its lowest 

^ Riedel, De slidk-en kroesharige ^ Riedel, op. cit. p. 340. 

rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, p. * Codrington, " Religious Beliefs and 

440. Practices in Melanesia," in Journ. 

^ Bastian, Die Vdlker des bstlicJun AntJu-op. Instit. x. 281. 
Asien, v. 455. " Riedel, op. cit. p. 61. 



point ; then, as the shadow stretched out in the after- 
noon, his strength returned. A certain hero dis- 
covered the secret of Tukaitawa's strength and slew 
him at noon.^ It is possible that even in lands outside 
the tropics the fact of the diminished shadow at noon 
may have contributed, even if it did not give rise, to 
the superstitious dread with which that hour has been 
viewed by various peoples, as by the Greeks, ancient 
and modern, and by the Roumanians of Transylvania." 
In this fact, too, we may perhaps detect the reason 
why noon was chosen by the Greeks as the hour for 
sacrificing to the shadowless dead.^ The ancients 
believed that in Arabia if a hyaena trod on a man's 
shadow it deprived him of the power of speech and 
motion ; and that if a dog, standing on a roof in the 
moonlight, cast a shadow on the ground and a hyaena 
trod on it, the dog would fall down as if dragged with 
a rope.^ Clearly in these cases the shadow, if not 
equivalent to the soul, is at least regarded as a living 
part of the man or the animal, so that injury done to 
the shadow is felt by the person or animal as if it were 
done to his body. Whoever entered the sanctuary of 
Zeus on Mount Lycaeus in Arcadia was believed to 
lose his shadow and to die within the year.^ Nowhere, 
perhaps, does the equivalence of the shadow to the 
life or soul come out more clearly than in some 

^ QiSSS., Myths and Songs of the South read k. avrbv, an emendation neces- 

Facijic, p. 284 sqq. sitated by the context, and confirmed 

2 Bernard Schmidt, Das Volksleben by the passage of Damlri quoted and 
derNe^lgriechen,^^■<^.^i^ sqq.,\\() sq.; translated by Bochart, Hicrozoicon, 
Grimm, Deutsche Myihologie,'^ ii. 972; i. c. 833, "-cum ad lunam calcat um- 
Rochholz, Deutscher Glaiibe jind bram canis, qui stipra tectura est, canis 
Branch, i. 62 sqq. ; E Gerard, The ad earn [scil. hyaenam] decidit, et ea 
Land beyond the Forest, \. n\. ilium devorat." Cp. W. Robertson 

3 Schol. on Aristophanes, Ran. 293. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, i. 

4 [Aristotle] Mirab. Auscult. 145 122. 

(157); Geoponica, y.w. i. In the latter ^ Pausanias, viii. 38, 6; Polybius, 

passage, for KaTayu eavrriv we must xvi. 12, 7 ; Plutarch, Quaest. Graec. 39. 



customs practised to this day in South-Eastern Europe. 
In modern Greece, when the foundation of a new 
buildinof is beino- laid, it is the custom to kill a cock, a 
ram, or a lamb, and to let its blood flow on the founda- 
tion stone, under which the animal is afterwards 
buried. The object of the sacrifice is to give strength 
and stability to the building. But sometimes, instead 
of killing an animal, the builder entices a man to the 
foundation stone, secretly measures his body, or a part 
of it, or his shadow, and buries the measure under the 
foundation stone ; or he lays the foundation stone upon 
the man's shadow. It is believed that the man will 
die within the year.^ The Bulgarians still observe a 
similar custom. If they cannot get a human shadow 
they measure the shadow of the first animal that comes 
that way.'^ The Roumanians of Transylvania think 
that he whose shadow is thus immured will die within 
forty days ; so persons passing by a building which is 
in course of erection may hear a warning cry, " Beware 
lest they take thy shadow ! " Not long ago there were 
still shadow-traders whose business it was to provide 
architects with the shadows necessary for securing 
their walls.^ In these cases the measure of the shadow 
is looked on as equivalent to the shadow itself, and to 
bury it is to bury the life or soul of the man, who, 
deprived of it, must die. Thus the custom is a sub- 
stitute for the old custom of immuring a living person 
in the walls, or crushing him under the foundation 
stone of a new building, in order to give strength and 
durability to the structure. 

As some peoples believe a man's soul to be in his 

1 B. Schmidt, Das Volkslebcn der ^ W. Schmidt, Das Jalir iind seine 
Neugriechen, p. 196 sq. Tage i)i Aleinung zind Branch der Ro- 

2 Ralston, Songs of the Russian jniinenSiebenbiirgens,^. 2"] ; E. Gerard, 
People, p. 127. The Land beyond the Forest, ii. 17 sq. 



shadow, so other (or the same) peoples believe it to be 
in his reflection in water or a mirror. Thus " the 
Andamanese do not regard their shadows but their 
reflections (in any mirror) as their souls." ^ Some of 
the Fijians thought that man has two souls, a light 
one and a dark one ; the dark one goes to Hades, the 
light one is his reflection in water or a mirror." When 
the Motumotu of New Guinea first saw their likenesses 
in a looking-glass they thought that their reflections 
were their souls." The reflection-soul, being external 
to the man, is exposed to much the same dangers as 
the shadow-soul. As the shadow may be stabbed, so 
may the reflection. Hence an Aztec mode of keeping 
sorcerers from the house was to leave a vessel of 
water with a knife in it behind the door. When a 
sorcerer entered he was so much alarmed at seeino- 


his reflection in the water transfixed by a knife that he 
turned and fled.^ The Zulus will not look into a dark 
pool because they think there is a beast in it which 
will take away their reflections, so that they die.^ The 
Basutos say that crocodiles have the power of thus 
killing a man by dragging his reflection under water.'' 
In Saddle Island (Melanesia) there is a pool "into 
which if any one looks he dies ; the malignant spirit 
takes hold upon his life by means of his reflection on 
the water."" 

^ E. H. Mann, Aboriginal Inhabi- themselves in the mirrors will be 

tants of the Andaman Islands, p. 94. scared away {China Revinu, ii. 164). 

2 Williams, Fiji, i. 241. " Callaway, Nursery Tales, Tradi- 

^ James Chalmers, Pioneering in tions, and Histories of the Zulus, p. 

New Guinea (London, 1887), p. 170. 342. 

* Sahagun, Histoire generale des ^ Arbousset et Daumas, Voyage 

choses de la Noiivelle-Espagne (Paris, d"" exploration an Nord-est de la Colonic 

1880), p. 314. The Chinese hang du Cap de Bo7tne-Esperance,-p. 12. 

brass mirrors over the idols in their '' Codrington, " Religious Beliefs 

houses, because it is thought that evil and Practices in Melanesia," in Joiirn. 

spirits entering the house and seeing Anthrop. Instit. x. 313. 



We can now understand why it was a maxim both 
in ancient India and ancient Greece not to look at 
one's reflection in water, and why the Greeks regarded 
it as an omen of death if a man dreamed of seeing 
himself so reflected.^ They feared that the water- 
spirits would drag the person's reflection (soul) under 
water, leaving him soulless to die. This was probably 
the origin of the classical story of the beautiful Narcis- 
sus, who pined and died in consequence of seeing his 
reflection in the water. The explanation that he died 
for love of his own fair image was probably devised 
later, after the old meaning of the story was forgotten. 
The same ancient belief lino;ers, in a faded form, in 
the English superstition that whoever sees a water- 
fairy must pine and die. 

" Alas, the moon should ever beam 
To show what man should never see ! — 
I saw a maiden on a stream, 
And fair was she ! 

" I staid to watch, a little space, 
Her parted lips if she would sing ; 
The waters closed above her face 
With many a ring. 

" I know my life will fade away, 
I know that I must vainly pine. 
For I am made of mortal clay. 
But she's divine ! " 

Further, we can now explain the widespread cus- 
tom of covering up mirrors or turning them to the wall 
after a death has taken place in the house. It is feared 
that the soul, projected out of the person in the shape 
of his reflection in the mirror, may be carried off by 
the ghost of the departed, which is commonly supposed 
to linger about the house till the burial. The custom 

1 Fragmenta Philosoph. Graec. ed. Mullach, i. 510; Artemidorus, Onirocr. 
ii. 7 ; Laws of Manu, iv. 38. 


is thus exactly parallel to the Aru custom of not sleep- 
ing in a house after a death for fear that the soul, pro- 
jected out of the body in a dream, may meet the ghost 
and be carried off by it.^ In Oldenburg it is thought 
that if a person sees his image in a mirror after a 
death he will die himself. So all the mirrors in the 
house are covered up with white cloth. -^ In some 
parts of Germany after a death not only the mirrors 
but everything that shines or glitters (windows, clocks, 
etc.) is covered up,^ doubtless because they might 
reflect a person's image. The same custom of cover- 
ing up mirrors or turning them to the wall after a 
death prevails in England, Scotland, and Madagascar.* 
The Suni Mohammedans of Bombay cover with a 
cloth the mirror in the room of a dying man and do 
not remove it until the corpse is carried out for burial. 
They also cover the looking-glasses in their bedrooms 
before retiring to rest at night.^ The reason why sick 
people should not see themselves in a mirror, and 
why the mirror in a sick-room is therefore covered up,*^ 
is also plain ; in time of sickness, when the soul 
might take flight so easily, it is particularly dangerous 
to project the soul out of the body by means of the 
reflection in a mirror. The rule is therefore precisely 
parallel to the rule observed by some peoples of not 
allowing sick people to sleep ; ^ for in sleep the soul 
is projected out of the body, and there is always a 
risk that it may not return. "In the opinion of the 
Raskolniks a mirror is an accursed thing, invented by 

1 See above, p. 125 sq. West of Scotland, p. 60; Ellis, History 

2 Wattke, Dcr deutsclie Volksaber- of Madagascar, \. z^li; Revite d' Ethno- 
glaube,'^ § 726. graphic, v. 2x5. 

'^ lb. 5 Panjab Notes and Queries, ii. 906. 

* Folk-lore Jour7ial, iii. 281 ; Dyer, •> Folk-lore Journal, vi. 145 sq, ; 

English Folk-lore, p. 109 ; J. Napier, Panjab Notes and Queries, ii., No. 378. 
Folk-lore, or Superstitious Beliefs in the '' Journ. Anthrop. Inst. xv. 82 sqq. 


the devil," ^ perhaps on account of the mirror's 
supposed power of drawing out the soul in the re- 
flection and so facilitating its capture. 

As with shadows and reflections, so with portraits ; 
they are often believed to contain the soul of the person 
portrayed. People who hold this belief are naturally 
loth to have their likenesses taken ; for if the portrait 
is the soul, or at least a vital part of the person 
portrayed, whoever possesses the portrait will be able 
to exercise a fatal influence over the original of it. 
Thus the Canelos Indians of South America think that 
their soul is carried away in their picture. Two of 
them having been photographed were so alarmed that 
they came back next day on purpose to ask if it were 
really true that their souls had been taken away.'' 
When Mr. Joseph Thomson tried to photograph some 
of the Wa-teita in Eastern Africa, they imagined that 
he was a magician trying to get possession of their souls, 
and that if he got their Hkenesses they themselves 
would be entirely at his mercy.^ An Indian, whose 
portrait the Prince of Wied wished to get, refused to 
let himself be drawn, because he believed it would 
cause his death.^ The Mandans also thought that they 
would soon die if their portrait was in the hands of 
another ; they wished at least to have the artist's picture 
as a kind of antidote or guarantee.^ The same belief 
still lingers in various parts of Europe. Some old 
women in the Greek island of Carpathus were very 
angry a few years ago at having their likenesses drawn, 

1 Ralston, Songs of the Russian and Canelos Indians," in Joiirn. 

People, p. 117. The objection, how- Anthrop. Inst. ix. 392. 
ever, maybe merely Puritanical. Pro- => J. Thomson, Through Masai Land, 

fessor W. Robertson Smith informs me p. 86. 

that the peculiarities of the Raskolniks " Ivlaximilian Prinz zu Wied, Reisc 

are largely due to exaggeratedPuritanism. in das Innere Nord-Amerika, i. 417. 

- A. Simson, "Notes on the Jivaros '" lb. ii. 166. 


thinking that in consequence they would pine and die.^ 
Some people in Russia object to having their silhouettes 
taken, fearing that if this is done they will die before 
the year is out." There are persons in the West of 
Scotland " who refuse to have their likeness taken lest it 
prove unlucky ; and give as instances the cases of 
several of their friends who never had a day's health 
after being photographed."^ 

§ 3. — Royal and priestly taboos (contimied) 

So much for the primitive conceptions of the soul 
and the dangers to which it is exposed. These con- 
ceptions are not limited to one people or country ; with 
variations of detail they are found all over the world, 
and survive, as we have seen, in modern Europe. 
Beliefs so deep-seated and so widespread must 
necessarily have contributed to shape the mould in 
which the early kingship was cast. For if every 
individual was at such pains to save his own soul from 
the perils which threatened it from so many sides, how 
much more carefully must he have been guarded upon 
whose life hung the welfare and even the existence of 
the whole people, and whom therefore it was the common 
interest of all to preserve ? Therefore we should expect 
to find the king's life protected by a system of pre- 
cautions or safeguards still more numerous and minute 
than those which in primitive society every man adopts 

1 " A far-off Greek Island," Black- Superstitions Beliefs in\tJie West of 
wood^s Magazi7ie, February 1886, p. Scotland, -p. 142. For more examples of 
235. the same sort, see R. Andree, Ethno- 

2 Ralston, So7igs of the Russian graphische Parallelen tend Vergleiche, 
People, p. 117. Neue Folge (Leipzig, 1889), p. 18 

^ James Napier, Folk-lore: or, sqq. 


for the safety of his own soul. Now in point of fact 
the Hfe of the early kings is regulated, as we have seen 
and shall see more fully presently, by a very exact 
code of rules. May we not then conjecture that these 
rules are the very safeguards which on a priori grounds 
we expect to find adopted for the protection of the 
king's life ? An examination of the rules themselves 
confirms this conjecture. For from this it appears that 
some of the rules observed by the kings are identical 
with those observed by private persons out of regard 
for the safety of their souls ; and even of those which 
seem peculiar to the king, many, if not all, are most 
readily explained on the hypothesis that they are 
nothing but safeguards or lifeguards of the king. I 
will now enumerate some of these royal rules or 
taboos, offering on each of them such comments and 
explanations as may serve to set the original intention 
of the rule in its proper light. 

As the object of the royal taboos is to isolate the 
king from all sources of danger, their general effect 
is to compel him to live in a state of seclusion, 
more or less complete, according to the number and 
stringency of the taboos he observes. Now of all 
sources of danger none are more dreaded by the 
savage than magic and witchcraft, and he suspects 
all strangers of practising these black arts. To guard 
against the baneful influence exerted voluntarily or 
involuntarily by strangers is therefore an elementary 
dictate of savage prudence. Hence before strangers 
are allowed to enter a district, or at least before they 
are permitted to mingle freely with the people of the 
district, certain ceremonies are often performed by the 
natives of the country for the purpose of disarming the 
strangers of their magical powers, of counteracting the 


baneful influence which is beHeved to emanate from 
them, or of disinfecting, so to speak, the tainted 
atmosphere by which they are supposed to be 
surrounded. Thus in the island of Nanumea (South 
Pacific) strangers from ships or from other islands 
were not allowed to communicate with the people until 
they all, or a few as representatives of the rest, had 
been taken to each of the four temples in the island, 
and prayers offered that the god would avert any 
disease or treachery which these strangers might have 
brought with them. Meat offerings were also laid 
upon the altars, accompanied by songs and dances in 
honour of the god. While these ceremohies were 
going on, all the people except the priests and their 
attendants kept out of sight. ^ On returning from an 
attempted ascent of the great African mountain 
Kilimanjaro, which is believed by the neighbouring 
tribes to be tenanted by dangerous demons, Mr. 
New and his party, as soon as they reached the border 
of the inhabited country, were disenchanted by the 
inhabitants, being sprinkled with " a professionally 
prepared liquor, supposed to possess the potency of 
neutralising evil influences, and removing the spell 
of wicked spirits." ' In the interior of Yoruba (West 
Africa) the sentinels at the gates of towns often oblige 
European travellers to wait till nightfall before they 
admit them, the fear being that if the strangers were 
admitted by day the devils would enter behind them.^ 
Amongst the Ot Danoms of Borneo it is the custom 
that strangers entering the territory should pay to 

1 Turner, 5awoa, p. 291 j-^/. Travels, Researches etc. in Eastern 

2 Charles New, Life, Wanderings, Africa, p. 192. 

and Labours in Eastern Africa, p. 432. 3 pigrre Bouche, La Cote des Esclaves 

Cp. ib. pp. 400, 402. For the demons et le Dahomey, p. 133. 

on Mt. Kilimanjaro, see also Krapf, 


the natives a certain sum, which is spent in the sac- 
rifice of animals (buffaloes or pigs) to the spirits of 
the land and water, in order to reconcile them to the 
presence of the strangers, and to induce them not to 
withdraw their favour from the people of the land, 
but to bless the rice- harvest, etc/ The men of a 
certain district in Borneo, fearing to look upon a 
European traveller lest he should make them ill, 
warned their wives and children not to go near him. 
These who could not restrain their curiosity killed 
fowls to appease the evil spirits and smeared them- 
selves with the blood. ^ In Laos before a stranger 
can be accorded hospitality the master of the house 
must offer sacrifice to the ancestral spirits ; otherwise 
the spirits would be offended and would send disease 
on the inmates.^ In the Mentawej Islands when a 
stranger enters a house where there are children, the 
father or other member of the family takes the orna- 
ment which the children wear in their hair and hands 
it to the stranger, who holds it in his hands for a 
while and then gives it back to him. This is thought 
to protect the children from the evil effect which the 
sight of a stranger might have upon them.^ At 
Shepherd's Isle Captain Moresby had to bedisenchanted 
before he was allowed to land his boat's crew. When 
he leaped ashore a devil-man seized his right hand 
and waved a bunch of palm leaves over the captain's 
head. Then "■ he placed the leaves in my left hand, 
putting a small green twig into his mouth, still hold- 
ing me fast, and then, as if with great effort, drew 
the twig from his mouth — this was extracting the evil 

1 C. A. L. M. Schwaner, Borneo, ii. ^ E. Aymonier, Notes stir le Laos, 

77; p. 196. 

- //'. ii. 167. 4 Rosenberg, Der Malayische Archi- 

pel, p. 198. 


spirit — after which he blew violently, as if to speed 
it away. I now held a twig between my teeth, and 
he went through the same process." Then the two 
raced round a couple of sticks fixed in the ground 
and bent to an angle at the top, which had leaves tied 
to it. After some more ceremonies the devil-man 
concluded by leaping to the level of Captain Moresby's 
shoulders (his hands resting on the captain's shoulders) 
several times, " as if to show that he had conquered 
the devil, and was now trampling him into the earth." ^ 
North American Indians "have an idea that strangers, 
particularly white strangers, are ofttimes accompanied 
by evil spirits. Of these they have great dread, as 
creating and delighting in mischief. One of the duties 
of the medicine chief is to exorcise these spirits. 
I have sometimes ridden into or through a camp 
where I was unknown or unexpected, to be confronted 
by a tall, half-naked savage, standing in the middle 
of the circle of lodges, and yelling in a sing-song, 
nasal tone, a string of unintelligible words."' When 
Crevaux was travelling in South America he entered 
a village of the Apalai Indians. A few moments after 
his arrival some of the Indians brought him a number 
of large black ants, of a species whose bite is pain- 
ful, fastened on palm leaves. Then all the people 
of the village, without distinction of age or sex, 
presented themselves to him, and he had to sting 
them all with the ants on their faces, thighs, etc. 
Sometimes when he applied the ants too tenderly they 
called out " More ! more ! " and were not satisfied till 
their skin was thickly studded with tiny swellings like 
what might have been produced by whipping them 

1 Capt. John Moresby, Discoveries "- R. I. Dodge, Our Wild Indians 

and Surveys in Neza Guinea, p. 102 sq. (Hartford, Conn. ; 1886), p. II9. 


with nettles.^ The object of this ceremony is made 
plain by the custom observed in Amboina and UHase 
of sprinkling sick people with pungent spices, such as 
ginger and cloves, chewed fine, in order by the prickling 
sensation to drive away the demon of disease which 
may be clinging to their persons.' With a similar 
intention some of the natives of Borneo and Celebes 
sprinkle rice upon the head or body of a person 
supposed to be infested by dangerous spirits ; a fowl 
is then brought, which, by picking up the rice from the 
person's head or body, removes along with it the spirit 
or ghost which is clinging like a burr to his skin. 
This is done, for example, to persons who have 
attended a funeral, and who may therefore be supposed 
to be infested by the ghost of the deceased.^ Similarly 
Basutos, who have carried a corpse to the grave, have 
their hands scratched with a knife from the tip of the 
thumb to the tip of the forefinger, and magic stuff 
is rubbed into the wound, ^ for the purpose, no doubt, 
of removing the ghost which may be adhering to their 
skin. The people of Nias carefully scrub and scour 
the weapons and clothes which they buy, in order 
to efface all connection between the things and the 
persons from whom they bought them.^ It is probable 
that the same dread of strangers, rather than any 
desire to do them honour, is the motive of certain 
ceremonies which are sometimes observed at their 
reception, but of which the intention is not direcdy 

1 J. Crevaux, Voyages dans ^ H. Griitzner, "UeberdieGebrauche 
rAmcriipie dn Slid, p. 300. der Basutho," in Verhandl. d. Berlin. 

2 Riedel, De shdk-en kroesharige Gesell. f. Anthropologic, etc. 1877, p. 
rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, p. 78. 84 sq. 

3 Perelaer, Ethnographische Be- ^ Nieuwenhuisen en Rosenberg, 
schrijving der Dajaks, pp. 44, 54, 252 ; " Verslag omtrent het eiland Nias," in 
Matthes, Bijdragen tot de Ethnologic Verhandel. v. h. Batav. Genootsch. v. 
van Zuid-Celebes, p. 49. Ktinsten ett IVetensc happen, xxx. 26. 


Stated. In Afghanistan and in some parts of Persia 
the traveller, before he enters a village, is frequently 
received with a sacrifice of animal life or food, or of 
fire and incense. The recent Afghan Boundary Mission, 
in passing by villages in Afghanistan, was often met 
with fire and incense.^ Sometimes a tray of lighted 
embers is thrown under the hoofs of the traveller's horse, 
with the words, "You are welcome."" On entering a 
village in Central Africa Emin Pasha was received 
with the sacrifice of two goats ; their blood was 
sprinkled on the path and the chief stepped over the 
blood to greet Emin.^ Amongst the Eskimos of 
Cumberland Inlet, when a stranger arrives at an 
encampment, the sorcerer goes out to meet him. The 
stranger folds his arms and inclines his head to one 
side, so as to expose his cheek, upon which the 
sorcerer deals a terrible blow, sometimes felling him to 
the ground. Next the sorcerer in his turn presents 
his cheek and receives a buffet from the stranger. 
Then they kiss each other, the ceremony is over, and 
the stranger is hospitably received by all.'^ Sometimes 
the dread of strangers and their magic is too great to 
allow of their reception on any terms. Thus when 
Speke arrived at a certain village the natives shut 
their doors against him, " because they had never 
before seen a white man nor the tin boxes that the 
men were carrying : ' Who knows,' they said, ' but that 
these very boxes are the plundering Watuta transformed 
and come to kill us? You cannot be admitted.' No 

1 Journal of the Anthropological being a Collection of his Letters and 

Society of Bombay, i. 35. Journals {\.<:>n^ox\, 188S), p. 107. 

9 -c rsiT^ -ri T\T ^ • * Narrative of the Second Arctic 

^ t. O Donovan, The Alerv Oasts r- ^ ,-,■ s i. r^i i t? zj n 

,, , 00 X •• o Expedition made by Charles p. Hall. 

(London, 1882), n. 58. Edited by Prof. J. G. Nourse, U.S.N. 

2 Emin Pasha in Central Africa, (Washington, 1879), p. 269 note. 


persuasion could avail with them, and the party had to 
proceed to the next village."^ 

The fear thus entertained of alien visiters is often 
mutual. Entering a strange land, the savage feels 
that he is treading- enchanted orround, and he takes 
steps to guard against the demons that haunt it and 
the magical arts of its inhabitants. Thus on going to 
a strange land the Maoris performed certain ceremonies 
to make it noa (common), lest it might have been 
previously tapu (sacred).^ When Baron Miklucho- 
Maclay was approaching a village on the Maclay Coast 
of New Guinea, one of the natives who accompanied 
him broke a branch from a tree and going aside 
whispered to it for a while ; then going up to each 
member of the party, one after another, he spat some- 
thing upon his back and gave him some blows with 
the branch. Lastly, he went into the forest and buried 
the branch under withered leaves in the thickest part 
of the jungle. This ceremony was believed to protect 
the party against all treachery and danger in the 
village they were approaching." The idea probably 
was that the malignant influences were drawn off from 
the persons into the branch and buried with it in the 
depths of the forest. In Australia, when a strange 
tribe has been invited into a district and is approaching 
the encampment of the tribe which owns the land, 
" the strangers carry lighted bark or burning sticks in 
their hands, for the purpose, they say, of clearing and 
purifying the air."^ So when two Greek armies were 

1 J. A. Grant, A Walk across Africa, nologische Bemerkungen liber die 
p. 104 sq. Papuas der Maclay - Kiiste in Neu- 

2 E. Shortland, Traditions and Guinea," in NaUnirkiindig Tijdschrift 
Siiperstiiions of the New Zealandei's, p. voor Nederlandsch Indie, xxxvi. 317 sq. 
103. 4 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of 

3 N. von Miklucho- Maclay, " Eth- Victoria, i. 134. 


advancing to the onset, sacred men used to march in 
front of each, bearing Hghted torches, which they flung 
into the space between the hosts and then retired 

Again, it is thought that a man who has been on a 
journey may have contracted some magic evil from the 
strangers with whom he has been brought into con- 
tact. Hence on returning home, before he is read- 
mitted to the society of his tribe and friends, he has to 
undergo certain purificatory ceremonies. Thus the 
Bechuanas " cleanse or purify themselves after journeys 
by shaving their heads, etc., lest they should have 
contracted from strangers some evil by witchcraft or 
sorcery.'"^ In some parts of Western Africa when a 
man returns home after a long absence, before he is 
allowed to visit his wife, he must wash his person with 
a particular fluid, and receive from the sorcerer a cer- 
tain mark on his forehead, in order to counteract any 
magic spell which a stranger woman may have cast 
on him in his absence, and which might be communi- 
cated through him to the women of his village.^ Two 
Hindoo ambassadors, who had been sent to England 
by a native prince and had returned to India, were 
considered to have so polluted themselves by contact 
with strangers that nothing but being born again could 
restore them to purity. " For the purpose of regener- 
ation it is directed to make an image of pure gold of 
the female power of nature, in the shape either of a 
woman or of a cow. In this statue the person to be 
regenerated is enclosed, and dragged through the 

^ Scholiast on Euripides, Phoeniss. Africa, being a Narrative of a Second 

1377. These men were sacred to the Journey in the Interior of that Country, 

war-god (Ares), and were always spared ii. 205. 

in battle. 3 Ladislaus Magyar, Reisen in Siid- 

2 John Campbell, Travels in South Afrika, p. 203. 


usual channel. As a statue of pure gold and of proper 
dimensions would be too expensive, it is sufficient to 
make an image of the sacred Yoni, through which the 
person to be regenerated is to pass." Such an image 
of pure gold was made at the prince's command, and 
his ambassadors were born again by being dragged 
through it.^ When Damaras return home after a long 
absence, they are given a small portion of the fat of 
particular animals which is supposed to possess certain 
virtues.^ In some of the Moluccas, when a brother or 
young blood -relation returns from a long journey, a 
young girl awaits him at the door with a caladi leaf in 
her hand and water in the leaf. She throws the water 
over his face and bids him welcome.^ The natives of 
Savage Island (South Pacific) invariably killed, not 
only all strangers in distress who were drifted to their 
shores, but also any of their own people who had gone 
away in a ship and returned home. This was done 
out of dread of disease. Long after they began to 
venture out to ships they would not immediately use 
the things they obtained from them, but hung them up 
in quarantine for weeks in the bush.'' 

When precautions like these are taken on behalf 
of the people in general against the malignant influence 
supposed to be exercised by strangers, we shall not be 
surprised to find that special measures are adopted to 
protect the king from the same insidious danger. In 
the middle ages the envoys who visited a Tartar Khan 
were obliged to pass between two fires before they 
were admitted to his presence, and the gifts they 
brought were also carried between the fires. The 

1 Asiatick Researches, vi. 535 sq. ed. 3 Francois Valentyn, Oud en nieicw 

4to (p. 537 sq. ed. 8vo). Oost-Iiidicn, iii. 16. 

- C. J. Andersson, Lake Ngami, p. ^ Turner, Samoa, p. 305 sq. 


reason assigned for the custom was that the fire 
purged away any magic influence which the strangers 
might mean to exercise over the Khan.^ When 
subject chiefs come with their retinues to visit 
Kalamba (the most powerful chief of the Bashilange 
in the Congo Basin) for the first time or after being 
rebelHous, they have to bathe, men and women 
together, in two brooks on two successive days, pass- 
ing the nights in the open air in the market-place. 
After the second bath they proceed, entirely naked, to 
the house of Kalamba, who makes a long white mark 
on the breast and forehead of each of them. Then 
they return to the market-place and dress, after which 
they undergo the pepper ordeal. Pepper is dropped 
into the eyes of each of them, and while this is being 
done the sufferer has to make a confession of all his 
sins, to answer all questions that may be put to him, 
and to take certain vows. This ends the ceremony, 
and the strangers are now free to take up their 
quarters in the town for as long as they choose to 
remain.' At Kilema, in Eastern Africa, when a 
stranger arrives, a medicine is made out of a certain 
plant or a tree fetched from a distance, mixed with the 
blood of a sheep or goat. With this mixture the 
stranger is besmeared or besprinkled before he is 
admitted to the presence of the king.^ The King of 
Monomotapa (South- East Africa) might not wear any 
foreign stuffs for fear of their being poisoned.* The 

1 De Piano Carpini, Historia Mon- Station Mukenge," in Mitfheihcngen 

goloriun quos iws Tartaros appellainus, der Afrikanischen , Gcsellschaft in 

ed. D'Avezac (Paris, 1838), cap. iii. § iii. Detitschland, iv. {1883-1885) 182 sq. 
p. 627, cap. ult. § i. X. p. 744, and ^ J. L. Krapf, Travels, Researches, 

Appendix, p. 775 ; "Travels of William and Missionary Labours duritig an 

de Rubriquis into Tartary and China," Eighteen Years' Residence in Eastern 

in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, vii. Africa, p. 252 sq. 
82 sq. ■* Dapper, Description de FAfriqiie, 

- Paul Pogge, " Bericht iiber die p. 391. 

i6o NOT TO BE SEEN chap. 

King of Kakongo (West Africa) might not possess or 
even touch European goods, except metals, arms, and 
articles made of wood and ivory. Persons wearing 
foreign stuffs were very careful to keep at a distance 
from his person, lest they should touch him.^ The 
King of Loango might not look upon the house of a 
white man.- 

In the opinion of savages the acts of eating and 
drinking are attended with special danger ; for at these 
times the soul may escape from the mouth, or be ex- 
tracted by the magic arts of an enemy present. Pre- 
cautions are therefore taken to guard against these 
dangers. Thus of the Battas of Sumatra it is said 
that "since the soul can leave the body, they always 
take care to prevent their soul from straying on occa- 
sions when they have most need of it. But it is only 
possible to prevent the soul from straying when one 
is in the house. At feasts one may find the whole 
house shut up, in order that the soul {toiidi) may stay 
and enjoy the good things set before it."' In Fiji 
persons who suspected others of plotting against them 
avoided eating in their presence, or were careful to 
leave no fragment of food behind.^ The Zafimanelo 
in Madagascar lock their doors when they eat, and 
hardly any one ever sees them eating.^ The Warua 
will not allow any one to see them eating and drinking, 
being doubly particular that no person of the opposite 

1 Proyart, " History of Loango, in Tijdschrift van het Nederlaudsch 
Kakongo," etc., in Pinkerton's Voyages Aardrijkskimdig Genootschap, ii. de 
a7id Travels, xvi. 583; Dapper, op. Serie, dl. iii., Afdeeling : meer uit- 
cit. p. 340 ; J. Ogilby, Africa (Lon- gebreide artikelen, No. 2, p. 300. 
don, 1670), p. 521. Cp. Bastian, /?/<;' '^ 'Y:\\.\^\\Vv:\.ms,, Fiji and tJie Fijians, 
deiitsche Expedition an der Loango- i. 249. 

Kiiste, i. 288. ^ J. Richardson, ' ' Tanala Customs, 

2 Bastian, op. cit. i. 268 sq. Superstitions and Beliefs," in The An- 
2 J. B. Neumann, "Het Pane-en Bila- tananarivo Annual and Madagascar 

Stroomgebied op het eiland Sumatra," Magazine, No. ii. p. 219. 


sex shall see them doing so. " I had to pay a man to 
let me see him drink ; I could not make a man let a 
woman see him drink." When offered a drink oi ponibe 
they often ask that a cloth may be held up to hide them 
whilst drinking. Further, each man and woman must 
cook for themselves ; each person must have his own 
fire.^ If these are the ordinary precautions taken by 
common people, the precautions taken by kings are 
extraordinary. The King of Loango may not be seen 
eating or drinking by man or beast under pain of death. 
A favourite dog having broken into the room where 
the king was dining, the king ordered it to be killed 
on the spot. Once the king's own son, a boy of 
twelve years old, inadvertently saw the king drink. 
Immediately the king ordered him to be finely apparelled 
and feasted, after which he commanded him to be cut 
in quarters, and carried about the city with a proclama- 
tion that he had seen the king drink. "When the 
king has a mind to drink, he has a cup of wine brought ; 
he that brings it has a bell in his hand, and as soon as 
he has delivered the cup to the king he turns his face 
from him and rings tbje bell, on which all present fall 
down with their faces to the ground, and continue so 
till the king has drank. ... His eating is much in the 
same style, for which he has a house on purpose, where 
his victuals are set upon a bensa or table : which he 
goes to and shuts the. door ; when he has done, he 
knocks and comes out. So that none ever see the 
king eat or drink. For it is believed that if any one 
should, the king shall immediately die."'" The rules 

1 Lieut. Cameron, Across Africa, ii. xvi. 330 ; Dapper, Description de 

71 (ed. 1877) ; id., in Joiini. Anthrop. FAfriqiie, p. 330; Bastian, Die deutsche 

Inst. vi. 173. Expedition an der Loango -Kiiste, i. 

- "Adventures of Andrew Battel," 262 sq.; R. F. Burton, Abeohita and 

in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, the Cameroons Mountains, i. 147. 


observed by the neighbouring King of Kakongo were 
similar ; it was thought that the king woukl die if any 
of his subjects were to see him drink/ It is a capital 
offence to see the King of Dahomey at his meals. 
When he drinks in public, as he does on extraordinary 
occasions, he hides himself behind a curtain, or hand- 
kerchiefs are held up round his head, and all the people 
throw themselves with their faces to the earth. ^ Any 
one who saw the Muato J am wo (a great potentate in 
the Congo Basin) eating or drinking would certainly be 
put to death.-' When the King of Tonga ate all the 
people turned their backs to him.* In the palace of 
the Persian kings there were two dining-rooms opposite 
each other ; in one of them the king dined, in the 
other his guests. He could see them through a curtain 
on the door, but they could not see him. Generally 
the king took his meals alone ; but sometimes his wife 
or some of his sons dined with him.^ 

In these cases, however, the intention may perhaps 
be to hinder evil influences from entering the body 
rather than to prevent the escape of the soul. To 
the former rather than to the latter motive is to 
be ascribed the custom observed by some African 
sultans of veiling their faces. The Sultan of Darfur 
wraps up his face with a piece of white muslin, which 
o-oes round his head several times, coverins: his mouth 
and nose first, and then his forehead, so that only his 
eyes are visible. The same custom of veiling the face 
as a mark of sovereignty is said to be observed in other 

1 Proyart's " History of Loango, ^ jj^-^uJ Pogge, Ivi Reiche des Miiafo 

Kakongo," etc., in Pinkerton's Voyages Jainioo (Berlin, i88o), p. 231. 

and Travels ^^\. 584. 4 Capt. James Cook, Voyages, v. 374 

:^J. L. Wilson, /^F.'./.4/;7/'«, p. 148 (^^^js , ' ^-' ^/^ 
(German trans.); John Duncan, 7rrtzv/j 

in Western Africa, i. 222. Cp. W. ^ Heraclides Cumanus in Athenaeus, 

W. Reade, Savage Africa, p. 543. iv. 145 b-d. 


parts of Central Africa.^ The Sultan of Wadai always 
speaks from behind a curtain ; no one sees his face 
except his intimates and a few favoured persons." 
Amongst the Touaregs of the Sahara all the men (but 
not the women) keep the lower part of their face, espe- 
cially the mouth, veiled constantly ; the veil is never 
put off, not even In eating or sleeping.^ In Samoa 
a man whose family god was the turtle might not 
eat a turtle, and if he helped a neighbour to cut 
up and cook one he had to wear a bandage tied 
over his mouth, lest an embryo turtle should slip 
down his throat, grow up, and be his death.* In 
West Timor a speaker holds his right hand before 
his mouth in speaking lest a demon should enter his 
body, and lest the person with whom he converses 
should harm the speaker's soul by magic.'^ In 
New South Wales for some time after his initiation 
into the tribal mysteries, a young blackfellow (whose 
soul at this time is in a critical state) must always cover 
his mouth with a rug when a woman is present.*^ 
Popular expressions in the language of civilised peoples, 
such as to have one's heart in one's mouth, show 
how natural is the idea that the life or soul may escape 
by the mouth or nostrils." 

1 Mohammed Ibn-Omar el Tounsy, * Turner, Samoa, p. 67 sq. 

Voyage an Darfour (Paris, 1845), p. , u r. t^ 

203 ; Travels of an Arab Merchant '' I^'edel, '_' Die Landschaft Davvan 

[Mohammed Ibn-Omar el Tounsy] in o'^er West-Tnnor, in Deutsche Geo- 

Soudan, abridged from the French (of graphische Blatter, x. 230. 

Perron) by Eayle St. John, p. 91 sq. e a. W. Howitt, "On some Aus- 

J Mohammed Ibn-Omar el Tounsy, ^^^^^^^ Ceremonies of Initiation," in 

Voyagcau Ouaclay (Paris, 1851), p. 375. j,,,,.„, Anthrop. hist. xiii. 456. 

•* H. Duveyrier, Exploration an Sa- 
hara. Les Toitareg die Nord, -p. T,()i sq.; " Compare /x6j'oi' o\jk iwl rois xeiXecrt 
Reclus, Nouvelle Geographie Univcr- ras i/'uxas ^x'"'''"'*^ Dio Chrysostomus, 
selle, xi. 838 sq. % James Richardson, Orat. xxxii. i. 417, ed. Dindorf ; 
Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara, viilii annua in naso esse, stabain tan- 
ii. 208. Amongst the Arabs men some- quaui inortiins, Petronius, Sat. 62 ; in 
times veiled their faces. Wellhausen, priniis labris aniniain habei-e, Seneca, 
Jieste Arabischen Heidentiimes, p. 146. Natiir Qitaest. iii. praef. 16. 


By an extension of the like precaution kings are 
sometimes forbidden ever to leave their palaces ; or, if 
they are allowed to do so, their subjects are forbidden 
to see them abroad. We have seen that the priestly 
king at Shark Point, West Africa, may never quit his 
house or even his chair, in which he is obliged to sleep 
sitting/ After his coronation the King of Loango is 
confined to his palace, which he may not leave. '^ The 
King of Ibo (West Africa) "does not step out of his 
house into the town unless a human sacrifice is made 
to propitiate the gods : on this account he never goes 
out beyond the precincts of his premises." ^ The kings 
of Aethiopia were worshipped as gods, but were mostly 
kept shut up in their palaces."* The kings of Sabaea 
(Sheba), the spice country of Arabia, were not allowed 
to go out of their palaces ; if they did so, the mob 
stoned them to death." But at the top of the palace 
there was a window with a chain attached to it. It 
any man deemed he had suffered wrong, he pulled the 
chain, and the king perceived him and called him in 
and gave judgment.*' So to this day the kings of 
Corea, whose persons are sacred and receive " hon- 
ours almost divine," are shut up in their palace from 
the age of twelve or fifteen ; and if a suitor wishes to 
obtain justice of the king he sometimes lights a great 
bonfire on a mountain facing the palace ; the king 
sees the fire and informs himself of the case.' The 

1 See above, p. 112. ■* Strabo, xvii. 2, 2, a-i^ovTai 5' u)s 

' Bastian, Die Loango-Kiiste, i. 263. Oeom tov^ (iacriXeas, Kara\-\etcrroi's cicras 

However, a case is recorded in which \-at oiKovpovs to Tr\4ou. 

he marched out to war (i'l>. i. 268 si/.) ^ Strabo, xvi. 4, 19 ; Diodorus 

3 S. Crowther and J. C. Taylor, SicuUis, iii. 47. 

T/ie Gospel oil the Banks of the Niger, ^ Herachdes Cumanus in Athenaeus, 

p. 433. On p. 379 mention is made 517 B.C. 

of the king's " annual appearance to the "^ Ch. Dallet, Histoire de PEglise de 

pubhc," but this may have taken place Coree (Paris, 1874), i. xxiv - xxvi. 

within " the precincts of his premises." The king sometimes, though rarely, 


King of Tonquin was permitted to appear abroad twice 
or thrice a year for the performance of certain religious 
ceremonies ; but the people were not allowed to look 
at him. The day before he came forth notice was 
given to all the inhabitants of the city and country to 
keep from the way the king was to go; the women 
were obliged to remain in their houses and durst not 
show themselves under pain of death, a penalty which 
was carried out on the spot if any one disobeyed the 
order, even through ignorance. Thus the king was 
invisible to all but his troops and the officers of his 
suite.^ In Mandalay a stout lattice-paling, six feet 
high and carefully kept in repair, lined every street in 
the walled city and all those in the suburbs through 
which the king was likely at any time to pass. Behind 
this paling, which stood two feet or so from the houses, 
all the people had to stay when the king or any of the 
queens went out. Any one who w^as caught outside 
it by the beadles after the procession had started was 
severely handled, and might think himself lucky if he 
got off with a beating. No one was supposed to look 
through the holes in the lattice-work, which were 
besides partly stopped up with flowering shrubs.^ 

Again, magic mischief may be wrought upon a 
man through the remains of the food he has partaken 
of, or the dishes out of which he has eaten. Thus 
the Narrinyeri in South Australia think that if a man 
eats of the sacred animal (totem) of his tribe, and an 
enemy gets hold of a portion of the tiesh, the latter 

leaves his palace. When he does so, paper, lest some one should look down 

notice is given beforehand to the people. upon the king. W. E. Griffis, Corea, 

All doors must be shut and each house- t/w Ilerniit N'ation, p. 222. 

holder must kneel before his threshold ^ Richard, "History of Tonquin," 

with a broom and a dust-pan in his in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, ix. 

hand. All windows, especially the 746. 

upper ones, must be sealed with slips of - Shway Yoe, The Buriiian, i. 308 sq. 


can make it grow in the inside of the eater, and 
so cause his death. Therefore when a man eats 
of his totem he is careful to eat it all or else to 
conceal or destroy the remains.^ In Tana, one 
of the New Hebrides, people bury or throw into 
the sea the leavings of their food, lest these should 
fall into the hands of the disease - makers. For if 
a disease -maker finds the remnants of a meal, say 
the skin of a banana, he picks it up and burns it 
slowly in the fire. As it burns the person who ate 
the banana falls ill and sends to the disease -maker, 
offering him presents if he will stop burning the 
banana skin." Hence no one may touch the food 
which the King of Loango leaves upon his plate ; it 
is buried in a hole in the ground. And no one may 
drink out of the king's vessel.^ Similarly no man 
may drink out of the same cup or glass with the King 
of Fida (in Guinea) ; " he hath always one kept partic- 
ularly for himself; and that which hath but once 
touched another's lips he never uses more, though 
it be made of metal that may be cleansed by fire."^ 
Amongst the Alfoers of Celebes there is a priest called 
the Leleen, whose duty appears to be to make the rice 
grow. His functions begin about a month before the 
rice is sown, and end after the crop is housed. Dur- 
ing this time he has to observe certain taboos ; 
amongst others he may not eat or drink with any one 
else, and he may drink out of no vessel but his own. ' 
We have seen that the Mikado's food was cooked 

1 Native Tribes of South Australia, ■* Bosnian's "Guinea," in Pinker- 
p. 63 ; Taplin, " Notes on tlie mixed ton's Voyages and Travels, xvi. 487. 
races of Australia," in Jouru. Aitt/irop. ■' P. N. Wilken, " Bijdragen tot de 
/>ist. iv. 53. kennis van de zeden en gewoonten der 

2 Turner, Samoa, p. 320 s,/. Alfoeren in de Minahassa," in Mede- 
^ Dapper, Description de rAfrique, deelingcn van wege het Nederlandsehe 

p. 330. Zendelinggenootsehap, xi. (1863) 126. 


every day in new pots and served up in new dishes ; 
both pots and dishes were of common clay, in order 
that they might be broken or laid aside after they had 
been once used. They were generally broken, for it 
was believed that if any one else ate his food out of 
these sacred dishes his mouth and throat would be- 
come swollen and inflamed. The same ill effect was 
thought to be experienced by any one who should 
wear the Mikado's clothes without his leave ; he would 
have swellings and pains all over his body.^ In the 
evil effects thus supposed to follow upon the use of 
the Mikado's vessels or clothes we see that other side 
of the divine king's or god-man's character to which 
attention has been already called. The divine person 
is a source of danger as well as of blessing ; he must 
not only be guarded, he must also be guarded against. 
His sacred organism, so delicate that a touch may 
disorder it, is also electrically charged with a powerful 
spiritual force which may discharge itself with fatal 
effect on whatever comes in contact with it. Hence 
the isolation of the man -god is quite as necessary for 
the safety of others as for his own. His divinity is a 
fire, which, under proper restraints, confers endless 
blessings, but, if rashly touched or allowed to break 
bounds, burns and , destroys what it touches. 
Hence the disastrous effects supposed to attend a 
breach of taboo ; the offender has thrust his hand into 
the divine fire, which shrivels up and consumes him 
on the spot. To take an example from the taboo we 
are considering. It happened that a New Zealand 
chief of high rank and great sanctity had left the 
remains of his dinner by the wayside. A slave, a 

1 Kaempfer's " History of Japan," in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, vii. 717. 


Stout, hungry fellow, coming up after the chief had 
gone, saw the unfinished dinner, and ate it up with- 
out asking questions. Hardly had he finished when 
he was informed by a horror-stricken spectator that 
the food of which he had eaten was the chiefs. "I 
knew the unfortunate delinquent well. He was re- 
markable for courage, and had signalised himself in the 
wars of the tribe. . . . No sooner did he hear the fatal 
news than he was seized by the most extraordinary 
convulsions and cramp in the stomach, which never 
ceased till he died, about sundown the same day. He 
was a strong man, In the prime of life, and if any 
pakeha [European] freethinker should have said he 
was not killed by the taptt [taboo] of the chief, which 
had been communicated to the food by contact, he would 
have been listened to with feelings of contempt for his 
ignorance and inability to understand plain and direct 
evidence."^ This is not a solitary case. A Maori woman 
havino: eaten of some fruit, and beino^ afterwards told 
that the fruit had being taken from a tabooed place, 
exclaimed that the spirit of the chief whose sanctity 
had been thus profaned would kill her. This was in 
the afternoon, and next day by twelve o'clock she was 
dead.^ An observer who knows the Maoris well, says, 
" Tapu [taboo] is an awful weapon. I have seen a 
strong young man die the same day he was tapued ; 
the victims die under it as though their strength ran 
out as water." ^ A Maori chief's tinder-box was once 
the means of killing several persons ; for having been 
lost by him, and found by some men who used it to 

^ Old New Zealand, by a Pakeha For more examples of the same kind 
Maori (London, 1884), p. 96 sq. see ib. p. 77 sq. 

2 E. Tregear, "The Maoris of New 

2 W. Brown, N'ew Zealand and its Zealand," \a.Jour7i. Anthrop. Inst. xix. 
Aborigines (London, 1845), P- 7^- ^o°- 


light their pipes, they died of fright on learning to 
whom it had belonged. So too the garments of a high 
New Zealand chief will kill any one else who wears 
them. A chief was observed by a missionary to 
throw down a precipice a blanket which he found too 
heavy to carry. Being asked by the missionary why 
he did not leave it on a tree for the use of a future 
traveller, the chief replied that " it was the fear of its 
being taken by another which caused him to throw 
it where he did, for if it were worn, his tapu " {i.e. 
his spiritual power communicated by contact to the 
blanket and through the blanket to the man) "would 
kill the person." ^ 

No wonder therefore that the savage should rank 
these human divinities amongst what he regards as the 
dangerous classes, and should impose exactly the same 
restraints upon the one as upon the other. For in- 
stance, those who have defiled themselves by touching 
a dead body are regarded by the Maoris as in a 
very dangerous state, and are sedulously shunned and 
isolated. But the taboos observed by and towards 
these defiled persons {e.g. they may not touch food 
with their hands, and the vessels used by them may 
not be used by other people) are identical with those 
observed by and towards sacred chiefs."^ And, in 
general, the prohibition to use the dress, vessels, etc., 
of certain persons and the effects supposed to follow 
an infraction of the rule are exactly the same whether 
the persons to whom the things belong are sacred or 
what we might call unclean and polluted. As the 
garments which have been touched by a sacred chief 

1 R. Taylor, Tc Ika a Maui: or, 2 s^ §_ Thomson, The Story of New 

New Zealand ami its Inhabit ant s,'^ Zealand, \. \o\ sqq.; Old Neiu Zealajtd, 
p. 164. by a Pakeha Maori, pp. 94, 104 sqq. 


kill those who handle them, so do the things which 
have been touched by a menstruous woman. An 
Australian blackfellow, who discovered that his wife 
had lain on his blanket at her menstrual period, killed 
her and died of terror himself within a fortnight/ 
Hence Australian women at these times are forbidden 
under pain of death to touch anything that men use. 
They are also secluded at child-birth, and all vessels used 
by them during their seclusion are burned.- Amongst 
some of the Indians of North America also women at 
menstruation are forbidden to touch men's utensils, 
which would be so defiled by their touch that their 
subsequent use would be attended by certain mis- 
chief or misfortune.^ Amongst the Eskimo of Alaska 
no one will willingly drink out of the same cup or 
eat out of the same dish that has been used by a 
woman at her confinement until it has been purified 
by certain incantations.^ Amongst some of the 
Tinneh Indians of North America the dishes out 
of which girls eat during their seclusion at puberty 
"are used by no other person, and wholly devoted 
to their own use."'' Again amongst some Indian 
tribes of North America men who have slain enemies 
are considered to be in a state of uncleanness, and 
will not eat or drink out of any dish or smoke out 
of any pipe but their own for a considerable time 
after the slaughter, and no one will willingly use 
their dishes or pipes. They live in a kind of 
seclusion during this time, at the end of which all 

1 Joitrn. Afithrop. Inst. ix. 458. ^ Report of the International Polar 

2 W. Ridley, "Report on Aus- Expedition to Point Barrow, Alaska 
tralian Languages and Traditions," in (Wasliington, 1885), p. 46. 

Joiirn. Anthrop. Inst. ii. 268. 

3 Alexander Mackenzie, Voyages •' " Customs of the New Caledonian 
from Montreal through the Continent Women," vn. Jouni. Anthrop. Inst. vii. 

of North America, cxxiii. 206. 



the dishes and pipes used by them during their 
seclusion are burned/ Amongst the Kafirs, boys at 
circumcision Hve secluded in a special hut, and when 
they are healed all the vessels which they had used 
during their seclusion and the boyish mantles which 
they had hitherto worn are burned together with 
the hut.'-^ When a young Indian brave is out on 
the war-path for the first time the vessels he eats 
and drinks out of must be touched by no one else.^ 

Thus the rules of ceremonial purity observed by 
divine kings, chiefs, and priests, by homicides, women 
at child-birth, and so on, are in some respects alike. 
To us these different classes of persons appear to differ 
totally in character and condition; some of them we 
should call holy, others we might pronounce unclean 
and polluted. But the savage makes no such moral 
distinction between them ; the conceptions of holiness 
and pollution are not yet differentiated in his mind. 
To him the common feature of all these persons is 
that they are dangerous and in danger, and the 
danger in which they stand and to which they 
expose others is what we should call spiritual or 
supernatural, that is, imaginary. The danger, 
however, is not less real because it is imaginary ; 
imagination acts upon man as really as does gravi- 
tation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of 
prussic acid. To seclude these persons from the 
rest of the world so that the dreaded spiritual danger 
shall neither reach them, nor spread from them, is 
the object of the taboos which they have to observe. 

1 S. Hearne, A Journey from Prime stein, Reisen im siidlichcn Afrika, i. 
of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bayt to the 427. 

Northern Oceaii, p. 204 sqq. o Narrative of the Captivity a7zd 

2 L. Alberti, De Kaffcrs (Amster- Adventures of John Tanner (London, 
dam, iSio), p. 76 sq. ; H. Lichten- 1830), p. 122. 


These taboos act, so to say, as electrical insulators 
to preserve the spiritual force with which these 
persons are charged from suffering or inflicting harm 
by contact with the outer world.^ 

No one was allowed to touch the body of the King 
or Queen of Tahiti ; - and no one may touch the King 
of Cambodia, for any purpose whatever, without his 
express command. In July 1874 the king was thrown 
from his carriage and lay insensible on the ground, 
but not one of his suite dared to touch him ; a 
European coming to the spot carried the injured 
monarch to his palace.^ No one may touch the King 
of Corea ; and if he deigns to touch a subject, the 
spot touched becomes sacred, and the person thus 
honoured must wear a visible mark (generally a 
cord of red silk) for the rest of his life. Above 
all, no iron may touch the king's body. In 1800 
King TIeng-tsong-tai-oang died of a tumour in the 
back, no one dreaming of employing the lancet, 
which would probably have saved his life. It is 
said that one king suffered terribly from an abscess 
in the lip, till his physician called in a jester, whose 
antics made the king laugh heartily, and so the abscess 
burst.^ Roman and Sabine priests might not be shaved 
with iron but only with bronze razors or shears ; ' and 
whenever an iron graving-tool was brought into the 
sacred grove of the Arval Brothers at Rome for the 
purpose of cutting an inscription in stone, an expiatory 
sacrifice of a lamb and a pig was offered, which was 
repeated when the graving-tool was removed from the 

1 On the nature of taboo, see especi- * Ch. Dallet, Histoire de FEglise de 
ally W. Robertson Smith, Religion of Cork, i. xxiv. sq. ; Griffis, Corea, the 
the Semites, i. 142 sqq. 427 sqq. Hermit Nation, p. 2 1 9. 

2 YA\\%, Polynesian Researches,\\\.\oz. ^ Macrobiiis, ^a;". v. 19,13; Servius 
'■^ ].Mom3.,LeRoyattme du Caml'odge, on Virgil, ^en. i. 448; Joannes 

i. 226. Lydus, £>e mens. i. 31. 

TO IRON 173 

demus without the use of iron, because, it was said, 
Menedemus had been killed by an iron weapon in the 
Trojan war.'- The Archon of Plataeae might not touch 
iron ; but once a year, at the annual commemoration 
of the men who fell at the battle of Plataeae, he was 
allowed to carry a sword wherewith to sacrifice a bull.^ 
To this day a Hottentot priest never uses an iron 
knife, but always a sharp splint of quartz in sacrificing 
an animal or circumcising a lad/ Amongst the Moquis 
of Arizona stone knives, hatchets, etc., have passed 
out of common use, but are retained in religious cere- 
monies.^ Negroes of the Gold Coast remove all iron 
or steel from their person when they consult their 
fetish.'' The men who made the need-fire in Scotland 
had to divest themselves of all metal." In making the 
clavie (a kind of Yule-tide fire-wheel) at Burghead, no 
hammer may be used ; the hammering must be done 
with a stone. ^ Amongst the Jews no iron tool was 
used in building the temple at Jerusalem or in making 
an altar.^ The old wooden bridge [Pons Sublichis) at 
Rome, which was considered sacred, was made and 
had to be kept in repair without the use of iron or 
bronze.^° It was expressly provided by law that the 
temple of Jupiter Liber at Furfo might be repaired 

1 Aifa Frainun Ai-valitiin, ed. Hen- ° J. G. Bourke, The Snake Dance of 
zen, pp. 128-135 ; Marquardt, Rivnische the Moqiiis of Arizona, p. 178 sq. 
Staatsverwaltiiug,m.\DasSacrakvesen), " C. F. Gordon Gumming, In the 
p. 459 sq. Hebrides (ed. 1883), p. 195. 

2 Callimachus, referred to by the Old '' James Logan, Tlie Scottish Gael 
Scholiast on Ovid, Ibis. See Calli- (ed. Alex. Stewart), ii. 68 sq. 
machus,ed. Blomfield, p. 216; Lobeck, * C. F. Gordon Gumming, In the 
Aglaopliamus, p. 686. Hebrides, p. 226 ; E. J. Guthrie, Old 

3 Plutarch, Aristides, 21. This Scottish Ciistoms, p. 223. 
passage I owe to Mr. W. Wyse. ^ i Kings vi. 7 ; Exodus xx. 25. 

■* Theophilus Hahn, Tstini - Goam , i" Dio^ysius Halicarn. Antiquit. 

the Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi, Roman, iii. 45, v. 24; Plutarch, Niima, 

p. 22. 9 ; Pliny, Nat. Hist, xxxvi. § 100. 



with iron tools.^ The council chamber at Cyzicus was 
constructed of wood without any iron nails, the beams 
being so arranged that they could be taken out and 
replaced.- The late Raja Vijyanagram, a member 
of the Viceroy's Council, and described as one of 
the most enlightened and estimable of Hindu princes, 
would not allow iron to be used in the construction 
of buildings within his territory, believing that its use 
would inevitably be followed by small-pox and other 

This superstitious objection to iron perhaps dates 
from that early time in the history of society when 
iron was still a novelty, and as such was viewed by 
many with suspicion and dislike. For everything new 
is apt to excite the awe and dread of the savage. 
" It is a curious superstition," says a recent pioneer 
in Borneo, "this of the Dusuns, to attribute anything 
— whether good or bad, lucky or unlucky — that happens 
to them to something novel which has arrived in their 
country. For instance, my living in Kindram has 
caused the intensely hot weather we have experienced 
of late."* The first introduction of iron ploughshares 
into Poland having been followed by a succession of 
bad harvests, the farmers attributed the badness of the 
crops to the iron ploughshares, and discarded them 
for the old wooden ones.^ The general dislike of 
innovation, which always makes itself strongly felt 
in the sphere of religion, is sufficient by itself to 

1 Ada Fratnim Ji-valiitm, ed. Hen- Samogitiae," in Rcspublica sive Status 
zen, p. 132; Corpus Liscripiioiiinn Regni Foloniae, Lituaniae, Fnissiae, 
Latinariim, i. No. 603. Livoniae etc. (Elzevir, 1627), p. 276 ; 

2 Pliny, I.e. Johan. Lasicius, " De diis Samogi- 
■'' Indian Antiquary., x. (1881) tarum caeterommque Sarmatum," in 

-5, Respublica, etc. {ut supra), p. 294 

•i Frank Hatton, North Borneo (p. 84 ed. Mannhardt, in Magazin 

(1886), p. 233. herausgeg. von dcr Lettisch - Literdr. 

5 Alexand. Guagninus, " De ducatu Gesellsch. bd. xiv.) 


account for the superstitious aversion to iron enter- 
tained by kings and priests and attributed by them 
to the gods ; possibly this aversion may have been 
intensified in places by some such accidental cause as 
the series of bad seasons which cast discredit on iron 
ploughshares in Poland. But the disfavour in which 
iron is held by the gods and their ministers has another 
side. The very fact that iron is deemed obnoxious to 
spirits furnishes men with a weapon which may be 
turned against the spirits when occasion serves. As 
their dislike of iron is supposed to be so great that 
they will not approach persons and things protected 
by the obnoxious metal, iron may obviously be employed 
as a charm for banning ghosts and other dangerous 
spirits. And it often is so used. Thus when Scotch 
fishermen were at sea, and one of them happened 
to take the name of God in vain, the first man who 
heard him called out " Cauld airn," at which every 
man of the crew grasped the nearest bit of iron and 
held it between his hands for a while.^ In Morocco 
iron is considered a great protection against demons ; 
hence it is usual to place a knife or dagger under 
a sick man's pillow.'^ In India "the mourner who 
performs the ceremony of putting fire into the dead 
person's mouth carries with him a piece of iron : it 
may be a key or a knife, or a simple piece of iron, and 
during the whole time of his separation (for he is 
unclean for a certain time, and no one will either touch 
him or eat or drink with him, neither can he change 
his clothes^) he carries the piece of iron about with 

1 'E.].Gui\ix\t, Old Scottish CiistoDis, ^ The reader may observe how closely 

p. 149; Ch. Rogers, Social Life in Scot- the taboos laid upon mourners resemble 

land (London, 1886), iii. 218. those laid upon kings. From what has 

- A. Leared, Morocco and the Moors, gone before the reason of the re- 

p. 273. semblance is obvious. 


him to keep off the evil spirit. In Calcutta the Bengali 
clerks in the Government Offices used to wear a small 
key on one of their fingers when they had been chief 
mourners." ^ In the north-east of Scotland immediately 
after a death had taken place, a piece of iron, such as 
a nail or a knitting-wire, used to be stuck into all the 
meal, butter, cheese, flesh, and whisky in the house, 
"to prevent death from entering them." The neglect 
of this precaution is said to have been closely followed 
by the corruption of the food and drink ; the whisky 
has been known to become as white as milk.- When 
iron is used as a protective charm after a death, as in 
these Hindu and Scotch customs, the spirit against 
which it is directed is the ghost of the deceased.^ 

There is a priestly king to the north of Zengwih in 
Burma, revered by the Sotih as the highest spiritual 
and temporal authority, into whose house no weapon 
or cutting instrument may be brought.'* This rule 
may perhaps be explained by a custom observed by 
various peoples after a death ; they refrain from the 
use of sharp instruments so long as the ghost of the 
deceased is supposed to be near, lest they should 
wound it. Thus after a death the Roumanians of 
Transylvania are careful not to leave a knife lying 
with the sharp edge uppermost as long as the corpse 
remains in the house, " or else the soul will be 
forced to ride on the blade."'' For seven days 

1 Panjah Notes and Queries, iii. No. aus dein Herzogthtim Oldenlnirg, § 233 ; 

2S2. \Na.\.\\ie, Derdeutsche Volksaberglatibe'^,^ 

- Walter Gregor, T/ie Folk-lore of 4i4.s^.; Ty\ox, PriDiiiive Ctilture,\. ii\o; 

the North-East of Seotlaiid, p. 206. Mannhardt, Der Baiimknlius, 132 note. 

3 This is expressly said in Panjab ** Bastian, Die Viilker des ostlicheii 

Notes and Queries, iii. No. 846. On Asien, i. 136. 

iron as a protective charm see also ^ E. Gerard, Tlte Land beyond the 

Liebrecht, Gervasius von Tilbjiry, p. Forest, i. 312 ; W. Schmidt, Dasjahr 

99 sqq.; id., Ziir Volksktinde, p. 311; nnd seine Tage in Meimmgund Branch 

L. Strackerjan, Aberglatibe und Sagen der Roindnen Siebenbiirgens, p. 40. 


after a death, the corpse being still in the house, the 
Chinese abstain from the use of knives and needles, 
and even of chopsticks, eating their food with their 
fingers.^ Amongst the Innuit (Eskimos) of Alaska 
for four days after a death the women in the village 
do no sewing, and for five days the men do not 
cut wood with an axe.- On the third, sixth, ninth, 
and fortieth days after the funeral the old Prussians 
and Lithuanians used to prepare a meal, to which, 
standing at the door, they invited the soul of the 
deceased. At these meals they sat silent round the 
table and used no knives, and the women who served 
up the food were also without knives. If any morsels 
fell from the table they were left lying there for the 
lonely souls that had no living relations or friends to 
feed them. When the meal was over the priest took 
a broom and swept the souls out of the house, saying, 
" Dear souls, ye have eaten and drunk. Go forth, go 
forth." ^ In cutting the nails and combing the hair of 
a dead prince in South Celebes only the back of the 
knife and of the comb may be used."^ The Germans 
say that a knife should not be left edge upwards, 
because God and the spirits dwell there, or because 
it will cut the face of God and the angels.^ We can 
now understand why no cutting instrument may be 
taken into the house of the Burmese pontiff. Like so 
many priestly kings, he is probably regarded as divine, 

1 J. H. Gray, China, i. 288. (Frankfort and Leipzig, 1684), p. 187 

2 W. H. Ball, Alaska and its Re- ^'^' 

sources, p. 146 ; id. in A 


B. F. Matthes, Bijdragen tot de 
Ethnologie van Zuid-Celebes, p. 136. 

Naturalist, xii. 7. "5 ^^^^^^ ^^^ i:^mm^, Die Volkssagen 

3 Jo. Meletius, " De religione et Ostpreiissens, Litthauens und IVest- 

sacrificiis veterum Borussorum," in De preussens, p. 285 ; Grimm, Deutsche 

Riissorum Muscovitanim et Tartaro- Mythologie,'^ iii. 454; cp. id. pp. 441, 

rum religione, sacrificiis, nuptiarnm, 469 ; Grohmann, Aberglaiiben und 

fmieriiin ritii (Spires, 1582), p. 263; Gebrcinche aus Buhmen wtd Mdhren, 

Hartknoch, Alt und neues Preussen p. 198. 


178 BLOOD 

and it is therefore right that his sacred spirit should 
not be exposed to the risk of being cut or wounded 
whenever it quits his body to hover invisible in the 
air or to fly on some distant mission. 

We have seen that the Flamen Dialis was for- 
bidden to touch or even name raw flesh. ^ In the 
Pelew Islands when a raid has been made on a village 
and a head carried off, the relations of the slain man 
are tabooed and have to submit to certain observances 
in order to escape the wrath of his ghost. They are 
shut up in the house, touch no raw flesh, and chew 
beetel over which an incantation has been uttered by 
the exorcist. After this the ghost of the slaughtered 
man goes away to the enemy's country in pursuit of 
his murderer.'^ The taboo is probably based on the 
common belief that the soul or spirit of the animal 
is in the blood. As tabooed persons are believed to 
be in a perilous state — for example, the relations of 
the slain man are liable to the attacks of his in- 
dignant ghost — it is especially necessary to isolate 
them from contact with spirits ; hence the prohibition 
to touch raw meat. But as usual the taboo is only 
the special enforcement in particular circumstances 
of a general rule ; in other words, its observance is 
particularly enjoined in circumstances which are sup- 
posed especially to call for its application, but apart 
from such special circumstances the prohibition is also 
observed, though less strictly, as an ordinary rule of 
life. Thus some of the Esthonians will not taste 
blood because they believe that it contains the animal's 
soul, which would enter the body of the person who 

1 Plutarch, Quacst. Rovi.ilO; Aulus 2 j_ Kubary, Die socialen Einricht- 

Gellius, X. 15, 12. tmgen der Felauer (Berlin, 1885), p. 

126 sq. 


tasted the blood. ^ Some Indian tribes of North 
America, " through a strong principle of religion, 
abstain in the strictest manner from eating the blood 
of any animal, as it contains the life and spirit of the 
beast." These Indians "commonly pull their new- 
killed venison (before they dress it) several times 
through the smoke and flame of the fire, both by the 
way of a sacrifice and to consume the blood, life, or 
animal spirits of the beast, which with them would be 
a most horrid abomination to eat."^' Many of the 
Slave, Hare, and Dogrib Indians scruple to taste the 
blood of game ; hunters of the former tribes collect the 
blood in the animal's paunch and bury it in the snow.^ 
Jewish hunters poured out the blood of the game 
they had killed and covered it up with dust. They 
would not taste the blood, believing that the soul or 
life of the animal was in the blood, or actually was the 
blood. ^ The same belief was held by the Romans,'^ 
and is shared by the Arabs, "^ and by some of the 
Papuan tribes of New Guinea.^ 

It is a common rule that royal blood must not be 
shed upon the ground. Hence when a king or one of 
his family is to be put to death a mode of execution is 
devised by which the royal blood shall not be spilt 
upon the earth. About the year 1688 the generalis- 
simo of the army rebelled against the King of Siam 
and put him to death "after the manner of royal 
criminals, or as princes of the blood are treated when 

1 F. J. Wiedemann, ^z« </t7« /««t';-t,'« version of verse II means also " soul " 
imd dussern Leben der Ehsten (St. (marginal note in the Revised Version). 
Petersburg, 1876), pp. 448, 478. Cp. Deuteronomy xii. 23-25. 

2 ]2irats Kdair, Histo7y of the Antei-i- ^ Servius on Virgil, Aen. v. 79; cp. 
can Indians, pp. 134, 117. id. on Acn. iii. 67. 

3 E. Petitot, Monographie des Dene- "^ J. Wellhausen, Rcste Arabischen 
Dindjie, p. 76. Heidenticmes, p. 217. 

4 Leviticus xvii. 10-14. The Hebrew "^ A. QcM^'iwsesecA, Dc Papoeiva' s van 
word translated "life "in the English a'eG'd;t'/^'/«/C'j-/iaa/(Schiedam, 1863), p. 77. 

l8o BLOOD NOT SPILT chap. 

convicted of capital crimes, which is by putting them 
into a large iron caldron, and pounding them to pieces 
with wooden pestles, because none of their royal blood 
must be spilt on the ground, it being, by their religion, 
thought great impiety to contaminate the divine blood 
by mixing it with earth." ^ Other Siamese modes of 
executing a royal person are starvation, suffocation, 
stretching him on a scarlet cloth and thrusting a billet 
of odoriferous ''saunders wood" into his stomach,'- or 
lastly, sewing him up in a leather sack with a large 
stone and throwing him into the river ; sometimes 
the sufferer's neck is broken with sandal-wood clubs 
before he is thrown into the water. ^ When Kublai Khan 
defeated and took his uncle Nayan, who had rebelled 
against him, he caused Nayan to be put to death by 
being wrapt in a carpet and tossed to and fro till he 
died, " because he would not have the blood of his Line 
Imperial spilt upon the ground or exposed in the eye of 
Heaven and before the Sun."^ "Friar Ricold men- 
tions the Tartar maxim : ' One Khan will put another 
to death to get possession of the throne, but he takes 
great care that the blood be not spilt. For they say 
that it is highly improper that the blood of the Great 
Khan should be spilt upon the ground ; so they cause 
the victim to be smothered somehow or other.' The 
like feeling prevails at the court of Burma, where a 
peculiar mode of execution without bloodshed is 
reserved for princes of the blood." ^ In Tonquin the 
ordinary mode of execution is beheading, but persons of 

1 Hamilton's "Account of the East Account of the Kingdom of Siavi (Lon- 
Indies," in Pinkeiton's Voyages and don, 1693), P- ^04 ^Q- 

Travels, viii. 469. Cp. W. Robertson ^ Pallegoix, Description die Royauvic 

Smith, Religion of the Semites, i. 349, Thai on Siam, i. 271, 365 sq. 
note 2. ^ Marco Polo, trans, by Col. H. 

Yule (2d ed. 1875), i. 335. 

2 De la Loubere, A Neiv Historical " Col. 11. Yule on Marco Polo, I.e. 


the blood royal are strangled.^ In Ashantee the blood 
of none of the royal family may be shed ; if one of 
them is guilty of a great crime he is drowned in the 
river Dah.' In Madagascar the blood of nobles might 
not be shed ; hence when four Christians of that class 
were to be executed they were burned alive.^ When 
a young king of Uganda comes of age all his brothers 
are burnt except two or three, who are preserved to 
keep up the succession/ The reluctance to shed royal 
blood seems to be only a particular case of a general 
reluctance to shed blood or at least to allow it to fall 
on the ground. Marco Polo tells us that in his day 
persons found on the streets of Cambaluc (Pekin) at 
unseasonable hours were arrested, and if found guilty 
of a misdemeanour were beaten with a stick. " Under 
this punishment people sometimes die, but they adopt 
it in order to eschew bloodshed, for their Bacsis say 
that it is an evil thing to shed man's blood."' When 
Captain Christian was shot by the Manx Government 
at the Restoration in 1660, the spot on which he stood 
was covered with white blankets, that his blood might 
not fall on the ground.'' Amongst some primitive 
peoples, when the blood of a tribesman has to be shed 
it is not suffered to fall upon the ground, but is 
received upon the bodies of his fellow tribesmen. 
Thus in some Australian tribes boys who are being 
circumcised are laid on a platform, formed by the 
living bodies of the tribesmen;' and when a boy's tooth 

1 Baron's "Description of the King- * C. T. Wilson and R. W. Felkin, 

dom of Tonqueen," in Pinkerton's Voy- Uganda and the Egyptian Soudan, i. 

ages and Travels, ix. 691. 200. 

^ T. E. Bowdich, Mission from Cape ■' Marco Polo, i. 399, Yule's transla- 

Coast Castle to Ashantee{L,ondon,i?>'jT)), tion, 2d ed. 

p. 207. ^ Sir Walter Scott, note 2 to Peveril 

3 Sibree, Madagascar and its People, of the Peak, ch. v. 

p. 430. ''Amative Tribes of South Australia, 

1 82 BLOOD NOT SPILT chap. 

is knocked out as an Initiatory ceremony, he is seated 
on the shouklers of a man, on whose breast the blood 
flows and may not be wiped away.^ When Austrahan 
blacks bleed each other as a cure for headache, and so 
on, they are very careful not to spill any of the blood on 
the ground, but sprinkle it on each other." We have 
already seen that in the Australian ceremony for 
making rain the blood which is supposed to imitate 
the rain is received upon the bodies of the tribesmen.'' 
In South Celebes at child-birth a female slave stands 
under the house (the houses being raised on posts 
above the ground) and receives in a basin on her head 
the blood which trickles through the bamboo floor.^ 
The unwillingness to shed blood is extended by some 
peoples to the blood of animals. When the Wanika 
in Eastern Africa kill their cattle for food, " they either 
stone or beat the animal to death, so as not to shed 
the blood. "^ Amongst the Damaras cattle killed for 
food are suffocated, but when sacrificed they are 
speared to death.'' But like most pastoral tribes in 
Africa, both the Wanika and Damaras very seldom 
kill their cattle, which are indeed commonly invested 
with a kind of sanctity." In killing an animal for food 
the Easter Islanders do not shed its blood, but stun it 

p. 230; E.J. Y.yxQ, Journals of Expcdi- '"' Lieut. Emery, \\\ Jostrnal of the R. 

lions of Discovery mto Central Australia, Geogr. Soc. iii. 282. 

ii 335; Brough Smyth, Aborigines of , ^^^ Andersson, Lake Ngami, p. 

Victoria, 1. 75 note. <i > r 

1 Collins, Account of the English ^^ 

Colony of New Sonth Wales (London, "' Ch. New, Life, ]Vaiulcri)igs, and 

179S), p. 580. Labours in Eastern Africa, p. 124 ; 

2 Native Tribes of South Australia, Francis Galton, " Domestication of 
p. 224 sq. ; Angas, Savage Life and AmmsXs,^^ \n Tra}isactions of the Ethno- 
Sceties in Australia arid Ne'v Zealand, log. Soc. of London, iii. 135. On the 
i. no sq. original sanctity of domestic animals, 

3 Above, p. 20. see above all W. Robertson Smith, The 
* B. F. Matthes, Bijdragen tot de Leligion of the Semites, i. 261 sqq., 2"]"] 

Ethnologic van Zuid-Celebes, p. 53. sqq. 


or suffocate it in smoke.^ The explanation of the 
reluctance to shed blood on the ground is probably to 
be found in the belief that the soul is in the blood, and 
that therefore any ground on which it may fall neces- 
sarily becomes taboo or sacred. In New Zealand 
anything upon which even a drop of a high chiefs 
blood chances to fall becomes taboo or sacred to him. 
For instance, a party of natives having come to visit 
a chief in a fine new canoe, the chief got into it, but in 
doing so a splinter entered his foot, and the blood 
trickled on the canoe, which at once became sacred to 
him. The owner jumped out, dragged the canoe 
ashore opposite the chiefs house, and left it there. 
Again, a chief in entering a missionary's house knocked 
his head against a beam, and the blood flowed. The 
natives said that in former times the house would have 
belonged to the chief.' As usually happens with 
taboos of universal application, the prohibition to spill 
the blood of a tribesman on the ground applies 
with peculiar stringency to chiefs and kings, and 
is observed in their case long after it has ceased to 
be observed in the case of others. 

We have seen that the Flamen Dialis was not 
allowed to walk under a trellised vine.^ The reason 
for this prohibition was perhaps as follows. It has been 
shown that plants are considered as animate beings 
which bleed when cut, the red juice which exudes from 
some plants being regarded as the blood of the plant* 
The juice of the grape is therefore naturally conceived 
as the blood of the vine.^ And since, as we have just 

1 L. Linton Palmer, "A Visit to ^ piutarch, Qitaest. Rom. 112; 
Easter Island," in Jotirti. R. Geogr. Aulus Gellius, x. 15, 13. 

Soc. xl. (1870) 171. * Above, p. 61 sq. 

2 R. Taylor, Te Ika a Maui; or, Neiu '^ Cp. W. Robertson Smith, op. at. 
Zealand and its Inhabitants,'^-^. 164^(7. p. 213 ^^y. 

1 84 IVINE THE BLOOD chap. 

seen, the soul is often believed to be in the blood, the 
juice of the grape is regarded as the soul, or as 
containing the soul, of the vine. This belief is 
strengthened by the intoxicating effects of wine. 
For, according to primitive notions, all abnormal 
mental states, such as intoxication or madness, are 
caused by the entrance of a spirit into the person ; 
such mental states, in other words, are regarded as 
forms of possession or inspiration. Wine, therefore, 
is considered on two distinct grounds as a spirit or 
containing a spirit ; first because, as a red juice, it is 
identified with the blood of the plant, and second 
because it intoxicates or inspires. Therefore if the 
Flamen Dialis had walked under a trellised vine, the 
spirit of the vine, embodied in the clusters of grapes, 
would have been immediately over his head and might 
have touched it, which for a person like him in a state 
of permanent taboo ^ would have been highly danger- 
ous. This interpretation of the prohibition will be 
made probable if we can show, first, that wine has 
been actually viewed by some peoples as blood 
and intoxication as inspiration produced by drinking 
the blood ; and, second, that it is often considered 
dangerous, especially for tabooed persons, to have 
either blood or a living person over their heads. 

With regard to the first point, we are informed by 
Plutarch that of old the Egyptian kings neither drank 
wine nor offered it in libations to the gods, because 
they held it to be the blood of beings who had once 
fought against the gods, the vine having sprung from 
their rotting bodies; and the frenzy of intoxication was 
explained by the supposition that the drunken man was 

1 Dialis cotidie feriatus est, Aulus Gellius, x. 15, 16. 


filled with the blood of the enemies of the gods/ The 
Aztecs regarded pulqiie or the wine of the country as 
bad, on account of the wild deeds which men did under 
its influence. But these wild deeds were believed to 
be the acts, not of the drunken man, but of the wine- 
god by whom he was possessed and inspired ; and so 
seriously was this theory of inspiration held that if any 
one spoke ill of or insulted a tipsy man, he was liable 
to be punished for disrespect to the wine-god incarnate 
in his votary. Hence, says Sahagun, it was believed, 
not without ground, that the Indians intoxicated them- 
selves on purpose to commit with impunity crimes 
for which they would certainly have been punished if 
they had committed them sober.'- Thus it appears 
that on the primitive view intoxication or the inspira- 
tion produced by wine is exactly parallel to the in- 
spiration produced by drinking the blood of animals.^ 
The soul or life is in the blood, and wine is the blood 
of the vine. Hence whoever drinks the blood of an 
animal is inspired with the soul of the animal or of the 
god, who, as we have seen,'* is often supposed to enter 
into the animal before it is slain ; and whoever drinks 
wine drinks the blood, and so receives into himself 
the soul or spirit, of the god of the vine. 

With regard to the second point, the fear of passing 
under blood or under a living person, we are told that 
some of the Australian blacks have a dread of passing 
under a leaning tree or even under the rails of a 
fence. The reason they give is that a woman may 

1 Plutarch, his et Osiris, c. 6. ^ Bernardino de Sahagun, Histoire 

A myth apparently akin to this has gencrale des choscs de la Notivelle- 

been preserved in some native Egyptian Espagne, traduite par Jourdanet et 

writings. See Ad. Erman, Aegypten Simeon (Paris, 1S80), p. 46 sq. 

mid aegyptisches Leben im Altertiun, p. ^ See above, p. 34 sq. 

364. * P- 35- 


have been upon the tree or fence, and some blood 
from her may have fallen on it and might fall from it 
on them.^ In Ugi, one of the Solomon Islands, a 
man will never, if he can help it, pass under a tree 
which has fallen across the path, for the reason that 
a woman may have stepped over it before him." 
Amongst the Karens of Burma "going under a house, 
especially if there are females within, is avoided ; as 
is also the passing under trees of which the branches 
extend downwards in a particular direction, and the 
but-end of fallen trees, etc."^ The Siamese think it 
unlucky to pass under a rope on which women's clothes 
are hung, and to avert evil consequences the person 
who has done so must build a chapel to the earth-spirit/ 
Probably in all such cases the rule is based on a 
fear of being brought into contact with blood, especi- 
ally the blood of women. From a like fear a Maori 
will never lean his back against the wall of a native 
house.^ For the blood of women is believed to have 
disastrous effects upon males. In the Encounter Bay 
tribe of South Australia boys are warned that if they 
see the blood of women they will early become gray- 
headed and their strength will fail prematurely.*^ Men 
of the Booandik tribe think that if they see the blood 
of their women they will not be able to fight against 
their enemies and will be killed ; if the sun dazzles 
their eyes at a fight, the first woman they afterwards 
meet is sure to get a blow from their club." In the 

1 E. M. Curr, The Australian Race ■* Bastian, Die Vblker des bstlichen 

(Melbourne and London, 1887), iii. Asien, iii. 230. 

179. 5 For the reason see Shortland, 

^ H. B. Guppy, The Solomon Traditions and Superstitions of the 

Islands and their Natives (London, Neia Zealanders, -p]). 112 ^^/., 292. 

1887), p. 41. ^ Native Tribes of South Australia, 

3 E. B. Cross, "On the Karens," p. 186. 

in Jo7irnal of the American Oriental ~ Mrs. James Smith, The Booandik 

Society, iv. (1854) 312. Tribe, p. 5. 


island of Wetar it is thought that if a man or a lad 
comes upon a woman's blood he will be unfortunate in 
war and other undertakings, and that any precautions 
he may take to avoid the misfortune will be vain.^ 
The people of Ceram also believe that men who see 
women's blood will be wounded in battle." Similarly 
the Ovaherero (Damaras) of South Africa think that 
if they see a lying-in woman shortly after child-birth 
they will become weaklings and will be shot when 
they go to war." It is an Esthonian belief that men 
who see women's blood will suffer from an eruption 
on the skin.* 

Again, the reason for not passing under dangerous 
objects, like a vine or women's blood, is a fear that 
they may come in contact with the head ; for among 
primitive people the head is peculiarly sacred. The 
special sanctity attributed to it is sometimes explained 
by a belief that it is the seat of a spirit which is 
very sensitive to injury or disrespect. Thus the 
Karens suppose that a being called the tso resides in 
the upper part of the head, and while it retains its 
seat no harm can befall the person from the efforts of 
the seven Kelahs, or personified passions. " But if 
the tso becomes heedless or weak certain evil to the 
person is the result. Hence the head is carefully 
attended to, and all possible pains are taken to provide 
such dress and attire as will be pleasing to the tso.''^'' 
The Siamese think that a spirit called KJman, or Chom 
Kuan, dwells in the human head, of which it is the 

1 Riedel, De sluik-en kroeshartge (South African) Folk-lore Journal, 
rasseii tnsschen Selebes en Papua, p. 63 

■1 F. J. Wiedemann, Aus dem innern 

^ Riedel, op. cit. p. 139 ; cp. id. p. nnd aussern Leben der Ehsten, p. 475. 

209. * E. B. Cross, " On the Karens," in 

- E. Dannert, "Customs of the Joicrnalof the American Oriental Society, 

Ovaherero at the Birth of a Child," in iv. 311 sq. 


guardian spirit. The spirit must be carefully protected 
from injury of every kind ; hence the act of shaving 
or cutting the hair is accompanied with many cere- 
monies. The Khian is very sensitive on points of 
honour, and would feel mortally insulted if the head 
in which he resides were touched by the hand of a 
stranger. When Dr. Bastian, in conversation with a 
brother of the king of Siam, raised his hand to touch 
the prince's skull in order to illustrate some medical 
remarks he was making, a sullen and threatening 
murmur bursting from the lips of the crouching 
courtiers warned him of the breach of etiquette he had 
committed, for in Siam there is no greater insult to a 
man of rank than to touch his head. If a Siamese 
touch the head of another with his foot, both of them 
must build chapels to the earth -spirit to avert the 
omen. Nor does the guardian spirit of the head like 
to have the hair washed too often ; it might injure or 
incommode him. It was a grand solemnity when the 
king of Burmah's head was washed with water taken 
from the middle of the river. Whenever the native 
professor, from whom Dr. Bastian took lessons in 
Burmese at Mandalay, had his head washed, which 
took place as a rule once a month, he was generally 
absent for three days together, that time being con- 
sumed in preparing for, and recovering from, the 
operation of head-washing. Dr. Bastian's custom of 
washing his head daily gave rise to much remark.^ 

Again, the Burmese think it an indignity to have 
any one, especially a woman, over their heads, and for 
this reason Burmese houses have never more than one 
story. The houses are raised on posts above the 
ground, and whenever anything fell through the 'floor 

1 Bastian, Die Vdlket' des dstUchen Asien, ii. 256, iii. 71, 230, 235 sq. 


Dr. Bastian had always difficulty in persuading a 
servant to fetch it from under the house. In Rangoon 
a priest, summoned to the bedside of a sick man, 
climbed up a ladder and got in at the window rather 
than ascend the staircase, to reach which he must have 
passed under a gallery. A pious Burman of Rangoon, 
finding some images of Buddha in a ship's cabin, 
offered a high price for them, that they might not be 
degraded by sailors walking over them on the deck.^ 
Similarily the Cambodians esteem it a grave offence 
to touch a man's head ; some of them will not enter a 
place where anything whatever is suspended over 
their heads ; and the meanest Cambodian would never 
consent to live under an inhabited room. Hence the 
houses are built of one story only ; and even the 
Government respects the prejudice by never placing 
a prisoner in the stocks under the floor of a house, 
though the houses are raised high above the ground."^ 
The same superstition exists amongst the Malays ; 
for an early traveller reports that in Java people "wear 
nothing on their heads, and say that nothing must 
be on their heads . . . and if any person were to put 
his hand upon their head they would kill him ; and 
they do not build houses with storeys, in order that 
they may not walk over each other's heads."" It is 
also found in full force throughout Polynesia. Thus 
of Gattanewa, a Marquesan chief, it is said that "to 
touch the top of his head, or any thing which had been 
on his head was sacrilege. To pass over his head 

1 Bastian, op. cit. ii. 150; Sanger- - J. Moura, Le Koyaume dii Cam- 

mano, Description of the Burmese Em- bodge, i. 178, 388. 

pire (Rangoon, 1885), p. 131; C. F. S. ^ Duarte Barbosa, Desa-iptioii of the 

Forbes, British Burma, p. 334; Shway Coasts of East Africa and Malabar in 
Yoe, The Burman, i. 91. the beginning of the Sixteenth Century 

(Hakluyt Society, 1866), p. 197. 


was an indignity never to be forgotten. Gattanewa, 
nay, all his family, scorned to pass a gateway which 
is ever closed, or a house with a door ; all must be 
as open and free as their unrestrained manners. He 
would pass under nothing that had been raised by 
the hand of man, if there was a possibility of getting 
round or over it. Often have I seen him walk the 
whole length of our barrier, in preference to passing 
between our water-casks ; and at the risk of his life 
scramble over the loose stones of a wall, rather than 
go through the gateway."^ Marquesan women have 
been known to refuse to go on the decks of ships for 
fear of passing over the heads of chiefs who might be 
below.- But it was not the Marquesan chiefs only 
whose heads were sacred ; the head of every Mar- 
quesan was taboo, and might neither be touched nor 
stepped over by another ; even a father might not 
step over the head of his sleeping child.^ No one 
was allowed to be over the head of the king of 
Tonga.^ In Hawaii (the Sandwich Islands) if a man 
climbed upon a chief's house or upon the wall of his 
yard, he was put to death ; if his shadow fell on a 
chief, he was put to death; if he walked in the shadow 
of a chiefs house with his head painted white or 
decked with a garland or wetted with water, he was 
put to death. ^ In Tahiti any one who stood over 
the king or queen, or passed his hand over their 
heads, might be put to death.'' Until certain rites 
were performed over it, a Tahitian infant was 

1 David VoxiQX, Journal of a Cncise * Capt. James Cook, Voyages, v. 427 
made to the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. (ed. 1809). 

Frigate Essex i^&s^YoxV, 1822), ii. 65. ^ Jules Remy, Ka Mooolelo Haivaii, 

2 Vincendon-Dumoulin et Desgraz, Histoire de PAirhipl Havaiien (Paris 
lies Marquises, p. 262. and Leipzig, 1862), p. 159. 

3 Langsdorff, Reise iim die Welt, i. ^ Ellis, Polynesian Keseajxhes, iii. 




especially taboo ; whatever touched the child's head, 
while it was in this state, became sacred and was 
deposited in a consecrated place railed in for the 
purpose at the child's house. If a branch of a tree 
touched the child's head, the tree was cut down ; 
and if in its fall it injured another tree so as to 
penetrate the bark, that tree also was cut down as 
unclean and unfit for use. After the rites were per- 
formed, these special taboos ceased ; but the head of 
a Tahitian was always sacred, he never carried any- 
thing on it, and to touch it was an offence.^ The 
head of a Maori chief was so sacred that " if he 
only touched it with his fingers, he was obliged 
immediately to apply them to his nose, and snuff up 
the sanctity which they had acquired by the touch, 
and thus restore it to the part from whence it was 
taken."" In some circumstances the tabooed person 
is forbidden to touch his head at all. Thus in North 
America, Tinneh girls at puberty, Creek lads during 
the year of their initiation into manhood, and young 
braves on their first war-path, are forbidden to scratch 
their heads with their fingers, and are provided with 
a stick for the purpose.^ But to return to the Maoris. 
On account of the sacredness of his head "a chief 
could not blow the fire with his mouth, for the breath 
being sacred, communicated his sanctity to it, and a 
brand might be taken by a slave, or a man of another 
tribe, or the fire might be used for other purposes, 

"^ ]:^m&s^\\%or\, A Missionary Voyage Creek Country," in Collections of the 

to the Southern Pacific Ocean (London, Georgia Historical Society, iii. pt. i. 

1799), p. 354 5^. (Savannah, 1848), p. 78; A. S. 

2 R. Taylor, Te Ika a Mani : or, Gatschet, Migration Legend of the 
New Zealand and its Inhabitants,^. \(i<y. Creek Indians, i. 185; Narrative of 

3 "Customs of the New Caledonian the Captivity and Adventures of John 
Women," in Joiirn. Anthrop. Inst. Tanner (London, 1830), p. 122; 
vii. 206 ; B. Hawkins, " Sketch of the Kohl, Kitschi-Gami, ii. 16S. 



such as cooking, and so cause his death." ^ It is a 
crime for a sacred person in New Zealand to leave 
his comb, or anything else which has touched his 
head, in a place where food has been cooked, or to 
suffer another person to drink out of any vessel 
which has touched his lips. Hence when a chief 
wishes to drink he never puts his lips to the vessel, 
but holds his hands close to his mouth so as to 
form a hollow, into which water is poured by another 
person, and thence is allowed to flow into his mouth. 
If a light is needed for his pipe, the burning ember 
taken from the fire must be thrown away as soon as it 
is used ; for the pipe becomes sacred because it has 
touched his mouth ; the coal becomes sacred because 
it has touched the pipe ; and if a particle of the sacred 
cinder were replaced on the common fire, the fire 
would also become sacred and could no longer be 
used for cooking."- Some Maori chiefs, like other 
Polynesians, object to go down into a ship's cabin 
from fear of people passing over their heads.^ Dire 
misfortune was thought by the Maoris to await those 
who entered a house where any article of animal food 
was suspended over their heads. " A dead pigeon, 
or a piece of pork hung from the roof was a better 
protection from molestation than a sentinel."^ If 
I am right, the reason for the special objection to 
havine animal food over the head is the fear of 
bringing the sacred head into contact with the spirit 

1 R. Taylor, I.e. siir la corvette Astrolabe. Histoire dii 

- E. Shortland, The Southern Dis- Voyage, ii. 534. 

t rids of Ne-co Zealand, p. 293; id., Tra- * R. A. Cruise, Journal of a Ten 

ditions and Superstitions of the New Months'' Residence in N'ew Zealand 

Zealanders, T^. lOT, sq. (London, 1823), p. 187; Dumont 

3 J. Dumont D'Urville, Voyage U'Urville, op. cit. ii. 533 ; E. Short- 

autour du Mo7ide et h la recherche de La land, The Southern Districts of New 

Perouse, execute sotis son commandement Zealand (London, 185 1), p. 30. 


of the animal ; just as the reason why the Flamen DiaHs 
might not walk under a vine was the fear of bringing 
his sacred head into contact with the spirit of the vine. 
When the head was considered so sacred that it 
might not even be touched without grave offence, it is 
obvious that the cutting of the hair must have been 
a delicate and difficult operation. The difficulties and 
dangers which, on the primitive view, beset the 
operation are of two kinds. There is first the danger 
of disturbing the spirit of the head, which may be 
injured in the process and may revenge itself upon the 
person who molests him. Secondly, there is the 
difficulty of disposing of the shorn locks. For the 
savage believes that the sympathetic connection which 
exists between himself and every part of his body 
continues to exist even after the physical connection 
has been severed, and that therefore he will suffer 
from any harm that may befall the severed parts of 
his body, such as the clippings of his hair or the 
parings of his nails. Accordingly he takes care that 
these severed portions of himself shall not be left in 
places where they might either be exposed to acci- 
dental injury or fall into the hands of malicious 
persons who might work magic on them to his 
detriment or death. Such dangers are common to 
all, but sacred persons have more to fear from them 
than ordinary people, so the precautions taken by 
them are proportionately stringent. The simplest 
way of evading the danger is of course not to cut 
the hair at all ; and this is the expedient adopted 
where the danger is thought to be more than usually 
ofreat. The Prankish kinors were not allowed to cut 
their hair.^ A Haida medicine-man may neither cut 

1 Agathias i. 3 ; Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsalterthiimer, p. 239 sqq. 


nor comb his hair, so it is always long and tangled.^ 
Amongst the Alfoers of Celebes the Leleen or priest 
who looks after the rice-fields may not cut his hair 
during the time that he exercises his special functions, 
that is, from a month before the rice is sown until it is 
housed.- In Ceram men do not cut their hair: if 
married men did so, they would lose their wives ; if 
young men did so, they would grow weak and ener- 
vated.^ In Timorlaut, married men may not cut their 
hair for the same reason as in Ceram, but widowers 
and men on a journey may do so after offering a fowl 
or a pig in sacrifice.^ Here men on a journey are 
specially permitted to cut their hair ; but elsewhere 
men travelling abroad have been in the habit of leaving 
their hair uncut until their return. The reason for the 
latter custom is probably the danger to which, as we 
have seen, a traveller is believed to be exposed from 
the magic arts of the strangers amongst whom he 
sojourns ; if they got possession of his shorn hair, 
they might work his destruction through it. The 
Egyptians on a journey kept their hair uncut till 
they returned home.' " At Taif when a man returned 
from a journey his first duty was to visit the Rabba 
and poll his hair.'"' The custom of keeping the 
hair unshorn during a dangerous expedition seems 
to have been observed, at least occasionally, by the 
Romans.^ Achilles kept unshorn his yellow hair, 

1 G. M. Dawson " On the Haida rassen tiisschen Selebes en Papua, p. 
Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands," 137. * Riedel, op. cit. p. 292 sq. 
in Geological Sia-vcy of Canada, Report ^ Diodorus Siculus, i. 18. 

of Progress for 1878-79, p. 123 B. " W. Robertson Smith, Kiusliip and 

^ P. N. Wilken, " Bijdragen tot de Marriage in Early Arabia, p. 152 sq. 
kennis van de zeden en gewoonten der '' Valerius Flaccus, Argonaut, i. 378 

Alfoeren in de Minahassa," in JMede- sq. : — 

deelingen van zvege het Ncderlandsche ' ' Pectus et Euiyiion servato colla capillo, 

Zendeli ngf^enootschap, vii. (1863) p. 126. Quern pater Aonias reducem tondebit ad 

2 Riedel, De sluik-en kroesharige aras." 


because his father had vowed to offer it to the river 
Sperchius if ever his son came home from the wars 
beyond the sea/ Again, men who have taken a vow 
of vengeance sometimes keep their hair unshorn till 
they have fulfilled their vow. Thus of the Marquesans 
we are told that "occasionally they have their head 
entirely shaved, except one lock on the crown, which 
is worn loose or put up in a knot. But the latter 
mode of wearing the hair is only adopted by them 
when they have a solemn vow, as to revenge the death 
of some near relation, etc. In such case the lock is 
never cut off until they have fulfilled their promise." ^ 
Six thousand Saxons once swore that they would not 
cut their hair nor shave their beards until they had 
taken vengeance on their enemies." On one occasion 
a Hawaiian taboo is said to have lasted thirty years 
"durinor which the men were not allowed to trim 


their beards, etc."^ While his vow lasted, a Nazarite 
might not have his hair cut : " All the days of the 
vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon 
his head."^ Possibly in this case there was a special 
objection to touching the tabooed man's head with 
iron. The Roman priests, as we have seen, were 
shorn with bronze knives. The same feeling prob- 
ably gave rise to the European rule that a child's 
nails should not be cut during the first year, but 
that if it is absolutely necessary to shorten them they 
should be bitten off by the mother or nurse.'' For 

1 Homer, Iliad, xxiii. 141 sqq. im Voigtlande, p. 424; W. Henderson, 

2 D. Porter, Journal of a Cruise Folk-lore of the Northern Counties, ^. id 
made to the Pacific Ocean, ii. 1 20. sq. ; F. Panzer, Beitrag zur deutschen 

3 Paulus Diaconus, Hist. langobard. Mythologie, i. 258 ; Zingerle, Sitten, 
iii. 7. Brduche und Meimmgen des Tiroler 

* Ellis, Polynesian Researches, iv. Volkes,'^ Nos. 46, 72 ; J. W. Wolf, 

387. Beitriige zur deutschen Mythologie, i. 

'" Numbers vi. 5. 208 (No. 45), 209 (No. 53) : Knoop, 

^ J. A. E. Kohler, Volkshranch, etc. Volkssagen, Erzdhlungen, etc. aus dem 


in all parts of the world a young child is believed 
to be especially exposed to supernatural dangers, and 
particular precautions are taken to guard it against 
them ; in other words, the child is under a number of 
taboos, of which the rule just mentioned is one. 
"Among Hindus the usual custom seems to be that 
the nails of a first-born child are cut at the age of six 
months. With other children a year or two is allowed 
to elapse."^ The Slave, Hare, and Dogrib Indians of 
North America do not cut the nails of female children 
till they are four years of age.- In some parts of 
Germany it is thought that if a child's hair is combed 
in its first year the child will be unlucky ;^ or that if a 
boy's hair is cut before his seventh year he will have 
no courage.^ 

But when it is necessary to cut the hair, pre- 
cautions are taken to lessen the dangers which are 
supposed to attend the operation. Amongst the 
Maoris many spells were uttered at hair-cutting ; one, 
for example, was spoken to consecrate the obsidian 
knife with which the hair was cut ; another was pro- 
nounced to avert the thunder and lig^htninof which hair- 
cutting was believed to cause.^ " He who has had 
his hair cut is in the immediate charge of the Atua 
(spirit) ; he is removed from the contact and society of 

bstlichen Hintcrpo))imern, p. 157 (No. p. 305; W. Dall, Alaska and its 

23); E. Veckenstedt, Wendische Sagen, Resources,^. 102. The reason alleged by 

Mdrchen tend abcrgldubische Gebrduche, the Indians (that if the girls' nails were 

p. 445 ; J. Haltrich, Ztir Volkshinde der cut sooner the girls would be lazy and 

Siebenbiirger Sachsen, p. 313; E. unable to embroider in porcupine quill- 

Krause, " Abergliiubische Kuren u. work) is probably a late invention, like 

sonstiger Aberglaube in Berlin," Zcit- the reasons assigned in Europe for the 

sfhn'fi fiir Ethnologie, xv. 84. similar custom (the commonest being 

1 Panjab Notes and Queries, ii. No. that the child would become a thief). 
1092. ^ Knoop, /.(■. 

2 G. Gibbs, " Notes on the Tinneh ■■ Wolf, Beitrdge ztir deittschen 
or Chepewyan Indians of British and Mythologie, i. 209 (No. 57). 

Russian America," in Annual Report '•> R. Taylor, Neiu Zealand and its 

of the Smithsonia7i Institution, 1866, Inhabitants, p. 206 sqq. 


his family and his tribe ; he dare not touch his food 
himself; it is put into his mouth by another person; 
nor can he for some days resume his accustomed 
occupations or associate with his fellow men."^ The 
person who cuts the hair is also tabooed ; his hands 
having been in contact with a sacred head, he may not 
touch food with them or engage in any other 
employment ; he is fed by another person with food 
cooked over a sacred fire. He cannot be released from 
the taboo before the following day, when he rubs his 
hands with potato or fern root which has been cooked 
on a sacred fire ; and this food having been taken to 
the head of the family In the female line and eaten by 
her, his hands are freed from the taboo. In some parts 
of New Zealand the most sacred day of the year was 
that appointed for hair-cutting ; the people assembled 
in large numbers on that day from all the neighbour- 
hood." It is an affair of state when the king of 
Cambodia's hair is cut. The priests place on the 
barber's fingers certain old rings set with large stones, 
which are supposed to contain spirits favourable to the 
kings, and during the operation the Brahmans keep 
up a noisy music to drive away the evil spirits."' The 
hair and nails of the Mikado could only be cut while 
he was asleep,"^ perhaps because his soul being then 
absent from his body, there was less chance of injuring 
it with the shears. 

But even when the hair and nails have been safely 
cut, there remains the difficulty of disposing of them, 

1 Richard A. Cruise, Journal of a - E. Sliortland, Traditions and 

Ten Months' Residence in New Zealand, Superstitions of the New Zealanders, 

p. 283 sq. Cp. Dumont D'Urville, p. 108 sqq. ; Taylor, I.e. 

Voyage anioiir du Monde et a la recherche ^ J. Moura, Le Royainne du 

de La Peroiise. Histoire du Voyage Camhodge, i. 226 sq. 

(Paris, 1832), ii. 533. * See above, p. in. 


for their owner believes himself liable to suffer from 
any harm that may befall them. Thus, an Aus- 
tralian girl, sick of a fever, attributed her illness to 
the fact that some months before a young man had 
come behind her and cut off a lock of her hair ; she 
was sure he had buried it and that it was rotting, 
"Her hair," she said, "was rotting somewhere, and 
her Marm-bu-la (kidney fat) was wasting away, and 
when her hair had completely rotted, she would die."^ 
A Marquesan chief told Lieutenant Gamble that he 
was extremely ill, the Happah tribe having stolen a 
lock of his hair and buried it in a plantain leaf for 
the purpose of taking his life. Lieut. Gamble argued 
with him, but in vain ; die he must unless the hair 
and the plantain leaf were brought back to him ; and 
to obtain them he had offered the Happahs the 
greater part of his property. He complained of ex- 
cessive pain in the head, breast and sides.- When 
an Australian blackfellow wishes to get rid of his 
wife, he cuts off a lock of her hair in her sleep, ties 
it to his spear- thrower, and goes with it to a 
neighbouring tribe, where he gives it to a friend. 
His friend sticks the spear-thrower up every night 
before the camp fire, and when it falls down it is a 
sign that his wife is dead.^ The way in which the 
charm operates was explained to Mr. Howitt by a 
Mirajuri man. "You see," he said, "when a black- 
fellow doctor gets hold of something belonging to a 
man and roasts it with things, and sings over it, the 
fire catches hold of the smell of the man, and that 
settles the poor fellow." ^ In Germany it is a common 

1 Brough Smyth, Aborigines of ^ J. Dawson, Australian Aborigines, 

Victoria, i. 468 sq. p. 36. 

^D.Voxiex, Journal of a C)-iiise made ^ A. W. Howitt, "On Australian 

to the Pacific Ocean, ii. 188. 'Me.Aicme.-m.zVifin/oiirn. Anthrop. Inst. 


notion that if birds find a person's cut hair, and build 
their nests with it, the person will suffer from head- 
ache ; ^ sometimes it is thought that he will have an 
eruption on the head." Again it is thought that cut 
or combed out hair may disturb the weather by 
producing rain and hail, thunder and lightning. 
We have seen that in New Zealand a spell was 
uttered at hair -cutting to avert thunder and light- 
ning. In the Tirol, witches are supposed to use 
cut or combed out hair to make hail -stones or 
thunder-storms with.^ Thlinket Indians have been 
known to attribute stormy weather to the fact that 
a girl had combed her hair outside of the house.* 
The Romans seem to have held similar views, for 
it was a maxim with them that no one on ship- 
board should cut his hair or nails except in a storm, ^ 
that is, when the mischief was already done. In 
West Africa, when the Mani of Chitombe or Jumba 
died, the people used to run in crowds to the corpse 
and tear out his hair, teeth, and nails, which they kept 
as a rain-charm, believing that otherwise no rain 
would fall. The Makoko of Anzikos begged the 
missionaries to give him half their beards as a rain- 

xvi. 27. Cp. E. Palmer, "Notes on 1 Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitten und 

some Australian Tribes," in Joiirii. Gebrdiiche mis Schwaben,^. S09;VmzQX, 

Anthrop. Inst. xiii. 293 ; James Beitrag zur devtscheii Mythologie, i. 

'^o^y^xzV, Daily Life of the Tasmaniiins, 258; J. A. E. Kohler, Volksbrauch 

p. 178 ; James Chalmers, PioJieering in etc. im Voigtlande, p. 425 ; A. Witzschel, 

New Gtiinea, p. 187 ; J. S. Polack, Sagen, Sittemmd Gebrdiiche aus Thiir- 

Manners and Custotns of the New zw^^w, p. 282; Zingerle, 0/. aV.No. iSo; 

Zealando-s, i. 282 ; Bastian, Die Wolf, Beitrdge zur deiitschcn Mythologie, 

Volker des bstlichen Asien, iii. 270 ; i. 224 (No. 273). 

LangsdorfF, Reiseum die Welt, i. \Z^^I• 2 zingerle, op. at. No. 181. 

A. S. Thomson, The Story of New 3 lingerie, op. at. Nos. 176,- i79- 

Zealatid, i. 79, 1 16 sq. ; Ellis, Poly- , . ,^ r, • -t-/- /v /■ j-„.,^^ 

r, 1 • ^ T- 1 * A Krause, Die Tlinkit-Indianer. 

nesian Researches, 1. 364 ; Zmgerle, ^- ^^"^^ ' 

Sitten, Brduche und Meinungen des (Jena, li^^S), p. 300. 

Tiroler Volkes,^ No. 178. ■' Petronius, Sat. 104. 


charm.^ In some Victorian tribes the sorcerer used 
to burn human hair in time of drought ; it was never 
burned at other times for fear of causing a deluge 
of rain. Also when the river was low, the sorcerer 
would place human hair in the stream to increase 
the supply of water.^ 

To preserve the cut hair and nails from injury 
and from the dangerous uses to which they may be 
put by sorcerers, it is necessary to deposit them in 
some safe place. Hence the natives of the Maldives 
carefully keep the cuttings of their hair and nails 
and bury them, with a litde water, in the ceme- 
teries ; "for they would not for the world tread 
upon them nor cast them in the fire, for they say 
that they are part of their body and demand burial 
as it does ; and, indeed, they fold them neatly in 
cotton ; and most of them like to be shaved at the 
gates of temples and mosques."^ In New Zealand 
the severed hair was deposited on some sacred 
spot of ground "to protect it from being touched 
accidentally or designedly by any one." * The shorn 
locks of a chief were gathered with much care and 
placed in an adjoining cemetery.^ The Tahitians 
buried the cuttings of their hair at the temples.*^ The 
cut hair and nails of the Flamen Dialis were buried 
under a lucky tree.^ The hair of the Vestal virgins 
was hung upon an ancient lotus-tree.^ In Germany 

1 Bastian, Die deutscJte Expedition * Shortland, Traditions and Siiper- 

an der Loango-R'iiste, i. 231 sq. ; id., stitions of the New Zealanders, p. no. 

Ein Besuch in San Salvador, p. 1 1 7. ° Polack, Manners and Customs of 

2- W. Stanbridge, "On the Aborigines the New Zealanders, i. 38 sq. 

of Victoria, "in Transact. Ethnolog. Soc. '^ James Wilson, A Missionary Voy- 

of London, i. 300. age to the Southern Pacific Ocean, 

3 Francois Pyrard, Voyages to the p. 355. 

East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, "^ Aulus Gellius, x. 15, 15. 

and Brazil. Translated by Albert Gray « Pliny, N^at. Hist. xvi. 235 ; Festus, 

(Hakluyt Society, 1887), i. wo sq. s.v. capillatam vel capillarem arborem. 


the clippings of hair used often to be buried under 
an elder-bush.^ In Oldenburg cut hair and nails are 
wrapt in a cloth which is deposited in a hole in an 
elder-tree three days before the new moon ; the hole 
is then plugged up.- In the West of Northumberland 
it is thought that if the first parings of a child's nails 
are buried under an ash-tree, the child will turn out 
a fine singer.^ In Amboina before a child may taste 
sago-pap for the first time, the father cuts off a lock 
of the child's hair which he buries under a sago 
palm.^ In the Aru Islands, when a child is able to 
run alone, a female relation cuts off a lock of its hair 
and deposits it on a banana-tree.^ In the island of 
Roti it is thought that the first hair which a child 
gets is not his own and that, if it is not cut off, it 
will make him weak and ill. Hence, when the child 
is about a month old, his hair is cut off with much 
ceremony. As each of the friends who are invited 
to the ceremony enters the house he goes up to the 
child, cuts off a litde of its hair and drops it into a 
cocoa-nut shell full of water. Afterwards the father 
or another relation takes the hair and packs it into a 
litde bag made of leaves, which he fastens to the top 
of a palm-tree. Then he gives the leaves of the palm 
a good shaking, climbs down, and goes home without 
speaking to any one.*^ Indians of the Yukon territory, 
Alaska, do not throw away their cut hair and nails, 
but tie them up in little bundles and place them in 
the crotches of trees or anywhere where they will 

1 Wuttke, Der detitsche Volksaher- * Riedel, De sheik -en kroesharige 

glaiibe,'^ % 464. i-assen ttisschen Selebes en Papua, p. 74. 

2 W. Mannhardt, Gernianische Mj 
en, p. 630. 

3 W. Henderson, Folk-loi-e of th 
A^orthern Counties, p. 17. 634-637. 

* Riedel, op. cit. p. 265. 
G. Heijmering "Zeden en gewoon- 

then, p. 630. jg^ ^p [^^^ gjj,^j^^ Rottie," in Tijdschrift 

3 W. Henderson, Folk-lore of the voor Neaiamrs Indie (1843), dl. ii. 


not be disturbed by animals. For " they have a 
superstition that disease will follow the disturbance 
of such remains by animals."^ The clipped hair 
and nails are often buried in any secret place, not 
necessarily in a temple or cemetery or under a tree, 
as in the cases already mentioned. In Swabia it is 
said that cut hair should be buried in a place where 
neither sun nor moon shines, therefore in the ground, 
under a stone, etc." In Danzig it is buried in a bag 
under the threshold." In Ugi, one of the Solomon 
Islands, men bury their hair lest it should fall into 
the hands of an enemy who would make magic with 
it and so bring sickness or calamity on them.^ The 
Zend Avesta directs that the clippings of hair and 
the parings of nails shall be placed in separate holes, 
and that three, six, or nine furrows shall be drawn 
round each hole with a metal knife. ^ In the Gr/hya- 
Siitras it is provided that the hair cut from a child's 
head at the end of the first, third, fifth, or seventh 
year shall be buried in the earth at a place covered 
with grass or in the neighbourhood of water. *^ The 
Madi or Moru tribe of Central Africa bury the 
parings of their nails in the ground.' The Kafirs 
carry still further this dread of allowing any portion 
of themselves to fall into the hands of an enemy ; 
for not only do they bury their cut hair and nails 
in a sacred place, but when one of them cleans the 
head of another he preserves the insects which he 

1 W. Dall, Alaska and its Resoiines, * H. B. Guppy, The Solomot Islands 
p. 54 ; F. Whymper, ' ' The Natives of the and iheit- Natives, p. 54. 

Youkon River," in Transact. Ethnolog. ° Fargaaid, xvii. 

Soc. of London, vii. 174. " Gxiliya-Si'itras, translated by H. 

2 E. Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitten ^^^.''^^'11^^'^''^? '^f )' ^°^- '■ P" 57- 
J r- 1 ■■ 1 C7 7 - ' R. W. Felkin, "Notes on the 

una Geuraucke atis iiclnvaben, p. 150Q. t.t j- tvt . -i r ^ 1 at- „ 
' ^ -^ -^ Madi or Moru tribe of Central Africa, 

^ W. Mannhardt, Germanische My- in Proceedings of the Royal Society of 

then, p. 630. Edinburgh, xii. (1882-84) p. 332. 


finds, " carefully delivering" them to the person to 
whom they originally appertained, supposing, accord- 
ing to their theory, that as they derived their support 
from the blood of the man from whom they were 
taken, should they be killed by another the blood 
of his neighbour would be in his possession, thus 
placing in his hands the power of some superhuman 
influence." ^ Amongst the Wanyoro of Central Africa 
all cuttings of the hair and nails are carefully stored 
under the bed and afterwards strewed about among 
the tall grass.^ In North Guinea they are carefully 
hidden (it is not said where) " in order that they may 
not be used as a fetish for the destruction of him to 
whom they belong.^ In Bolang Mongondo (Celebes) 
the first hair cut from a child's head is kept in a 
young cocoa-nut, which is commonly hung on the front 
of the house, under the roof/ 

Sometimes the severed hair and nails are pre- 
served, not to prevent them from falling into the 
hands of a magician, but that the owner may have 
them at the resurrection of the body, to which some 
races look forward. Thus the Incas of Peru "took 
extreme care to preserve the nail-parings and the 
hairs that were shorn off or torn out with a comb ; 
placing them in holes or niches in the walls, and if 
they fell out, any other Indian that saw them picked 
them up and put them in their places again. I very 
often asked different Indians, at various times, why 

1 A. Steedman, Wajtderhtgs and ^ J. L. Wilson, IVcst Afrika, p. 

Adventures in the Interior of Southern 159 (German trans.) 

Africa (London, 1835), i. 266. -* N. P. Wilken en J. A. Schwarz, 

" Allerlei over het land en volk van 

- Emin Pasha in Central Africa, V,o\^oviZonAo\\;' m. Mededeelingev 

being a Collection of his Letters and van luege het Nederlandsche Zendeling- 

Journals (London, 1888), p. 74. genootschaf, xi. (1867) p. 322. 

204 HAIR AND NAILS chap. 

they did this, in order to see what they would say, 
and they all replied in the same words, saying, ' Know 
that all persons who are born must return to life ' 
(they have no word to express resuscitation), ' and 
the souls must rise out of their tombs with all that 
belonged to their bodies. We, therefore, in order 
that we may not have to search for our hair and 
nails at a time when there will be much hurry and 
confusion, place them in one place, that they may 
be brought together more conveniently, and, when- 
ever it is possible, we are also careful to spit in one 
place.' "^ In Chile this custom of stuffing the shorn 
hair into holes in the wall is still observed, it beino- 
thought the height of imprudence to throw the hair 
away.^ Similarly the Turks never throw away the 
parings of their nails, but carefully keep them in 
cracks of the walls or of the boards, in the belief 
that they will be needed at the resurrection.^ Some 
of the Esthonians keep the parings of their finger 
and toe nails in their bosom, in order to have them 
at hand when they are asked for them at the day 
of judgment.^ The Fors of Central Africa object to 
cut any one else's nails, for should the part cut off 
be lost and not delivered into its owner's hands, It 
will have to be made up to him somehow or other 
after death. The parings are buried in the ground.^ 
To spit upon the hair before throwing it away is 
thought in some parts of Europe sufficient to prevent 

r 1 Gavcilasso de la Vega, First part abei-gldiibische Gebrduche, Weisen tmd 

of the' Royal Commentaries of the Yncas, Geivohnheiten, p. 139; F. J. Wiede- 

bk. ii. ch. 7 (vol. i. p. 127, Markham's mann, Atis dem innern zmd dtissern 

translation). Leben der Ehsten, p. 491. 

- AK'hisine, 187S, c. 583.!-^. '■> R. W. Felkin, "Notes on the 

3 The People of Ticrkey, by a Con- For tribe of Central Africa," in Pro- 

sul's daughter and wife, ii. 250. cecdiiigs of the Royal Society of Edin- 

•* Boeder -Kreutzwald, Der Ehsten burgh, xiii. (1884-86) p. 230. 


its being used by witches/ Spitting as a protective 
charm is well known. 

Some people burn their loose hair to save it from 
falling into the power of sorcerers. This is done by 
the Patagonians and some of the Victorian tribes.- 
The Makololo of South Africa either burn it or bury 
it secretly,^ and the same alternative is sometimes 
adopted by the Tirolese.^ Cut and combed out hair is 
burned in Pomerania and sometimes at Liege.^ In 
Norway the parings of nails are either burned or buried, 
lest the elves or the Finns should find them and make 
them into bullets wherewith to shoot the cattle.^ 
This destruction of the hair or nails plainly involves 
an inconsistency of thought. The object of the de- 
struction is avowedly to prevent these severed portions 
of the body from being used by sorcerers. But the 
possibility of their being so used depends upon the 
supposed sympathetic connection between them and 
the man from whom they were severed. And if this 
sympathetic connection still exists, clearly these severed 
portions cannot be destroyed without injury to the 

Before leaving this subject, on which I have per- 
haps dwelt too long, it may be well to call attention to 
the motive assigned for cutting a young child's hair in 
Roti.'^ In that island the first hair is regarded as a 
danger to the child, and its removal is intended to avert 
the danger. The reason of this may be that as a 

1 Zmgexle, Sitten,Brduche zind Mein- ■* Zingeile, oJ>. cit. Nos. 177, 179, 
vitgen des Tiroler Volkes,"^ Nos. 176, 180. 

580; Melusine, 1878, c. 79. ^ M. ], Hexeinvesen laid Zauberei 

2 Musters, " On the Races of Pata- in Pommern, p. 15 ; Mciitsiiu; 1878, c. 
gonia," in Journ. Anthrop. Inst. i. 79. 

igj ; ].'D3.-vfi,on, Australian Aborigines, *^ E. H. Meyer, Indoge^-matiische 

p. 36. Mythcn, ii. Achilleis (Berlin, 1887), p. 

3 David Livingstone, Narrative of 523. 
Expedition to the Zambesi, p. 46 sq. '' Above, p. 201. 


young child is almost universally supposed to be in a 
tabooed or dangerous state, it is necessary, in removing 
the taboo, to destroy the separable parts of the child's 
body on the ground that they are infected, so to say, 
by the virus of the taboo and as such are dangerous. 
The cutting of the child's hair would thus be exactly 
parallel to the destruction of the vessels which have 
been used by a tabooed person.^ This view is borne 
out by a practice, observed by some Australians, of 
burning off part of a woman's hair after childbirth as 
well as burning every vessel which has been used by 
her during her seclusion.- Here the burning of the 
woman's hair seems plainly intended to serve the same 
purpose as the burning of the vessels used by her ; and 
as the vessels are burned because they are believed to be 
tainted with a dangerous infection, so, we must suppose, 
is also the hair. We can, therefore, understand the 
importance attached by many peoples to the first cut- 
ting of a child's hair and the elaborate ceremonies by 
which the operation is accompanied.^ Again, we can 
understand why a man should poll his head after a 
journey.* For we have seen that a traveller is often 
believed to contract a dangerous infection from 
strangers and that, therefore, on his return home he is 
obliged to submit to various purificatory ceremonies 
before he is allowed to mingle freely with his own 
people.^ On my hypothesis the polling of the hair is 
simply one of these purificatory or disinfectant cere- 
monies. The cutting of the hair after a vow may 
have the same meaning. It is a way of ridding the 

1 Above, pp. 167, 169 sqq. opfer und einige andere Trauerge- 

2 W. Ridley, "Report on Australian hiimche hei den Volkern Indonesiens, p. 
Languages and Traditions," in Joiiru. 94 sqq. ; H. Ploss, Das Kind in Branch 
Anthrop. Inst. ii. 26S. 7ind Sitte dcr Volker,^ i. 289 sqq. 

2 See G. A. W^ilken, Ucbcr das Haar- ■* Above, p. 194. ° Above, p. 1 57 sq. 


man of what has been infected by the dangerous state 
of taboo, sanctity, or uncleanness (for all these are 
only different expressions for the same primitive con- 
ception) under which he laboured during the con- 
tinuance of the vow. Similarly at some Hindu places 
of pilgrimage on the b'anks of rivers men who have 
committed great crimes or are troubled by uneasy 
consciences have every hair shaved off by professional 
barbers before they plunge into the sacred stream, 
from which " they emerge new creatures, with all the 
accumulated guilt of a long life effaced." ^ 

As might have been expected, the superstitions of 
the savage cluster thick about the subject of food ; and 
he abstains from eating many animals and plants, 
wholesome enough in themselves, but which for one 
reason or another he considers would prove dangerous 
or fatal to the eater. Examples of such abstinence 
are too familiar and far too numerous to quote. But 
if the ordinary man is thus deterred by superstitious 
fear from partaking of various foods, the restraints of 
this kind which are laid upon sacred or tabooed per- 
sons, such as kings and priests, are still more numerous 
and stringent. We have already seen that the Flamen 
Dialis was forbidden to eat or even name several plants 
and animals, and that the flesh diet of the Egyptian 
kings was restricted to veal and goose." The Gangas 
or fetish priests of the Loango Coast are forbidden to 
eat or even see a variety of animals and fish, in con- 
sequence of which their flesh diet is extremely limited; 
often they live only on herbs and roots, though they 
may drink fresh blood. ^ The heir to the throne of 

1 '^ovi\Qx'^']]X\7s.m.%, Religious Thought an der Loango- Kiiste, ii. 170. The 

and Life in India, -p. 375. blood may be drunk by them as a 

^ Above, p. 117. medium of inspiration. See above, 

3 Bastian, Die deiitsche Expedition p. 34 sq. 


Loango is forbidden from infancy to eat pork ; from 
early childhood he is interdicted the use of the cola 
fruit in company ; at puberty he is taught by a 
priest not to partake of fowls except such as he has 
himself killed and cooked ; and so the number of 
taboos goes on increasing with his years.^ In Fer- 
nando Po the king after installation is forbidden to eat 
cocco {ariini acaulc), deer, and porcupine, which are the 
ordinary foods of the people." Amongst the Murrams 
of Manipur (a district of Eastern India, on the border 
of Burma), "there are many prohibitions in regard to 
the food, both animal and vegetable, which the chief 
should eat, and the Murrams say the chiefs post must 
be a very uncomfortable one."^ To explain the ulti- 
mate reason why any particular food is prohibited to a 
whole tribe or to certain of .its members would com- 
monly require a far more intimate knowledge of the 
history and beliefs of the tribe than we possess. The 
o-eneral motive of such prohibitions is doubtless the 
same which underlies the whole taboo system, namely, 
the conservation of the tribe and the individual. 

It would be easy to extend the list of royal and 
priestly taboos, but the above may suffice as specimens. 
To conclude this part of our subject it only remains to 
state summarily the general conclusions to which our 
inquiries have thus far conducted us. We have seen 
that in savage or barbarous society there are often 
found men to whom the superstition of their fellows 
ascribes a controlling influence over the general course 
of nature. Such men are accordingly adored and 
treated as gods. Whether these human divinities 

1 Dapper, Description de lAfrique, ^ G. Watt (quoting Col. W. J. 
p_ 226. M'Culloch), " The Aboriginal Tribes of 

2 "P. J. Hutchinson, Impressions of Manipur," in Journ. Anthrop. Inst. 
Western Africa (London, 1858), p. 198. xvi. 360. 


also hold temporal sway over the lives and fortunes 
of their fellows, or whether their functions are purely 
spiritual and supernatural, in other words, whether they 
are kings as well as gods or only the latter, is a dis- 
tinction which hardly concerns us here. Their sup- 
posed divinity is the essential fact with which we have 
to deal. In virtue of it they are a pledge and guar- 
antee to their worshippers of the continuance and 
orderly succession of those physical phenomena upon 
which mankind depends for subsistence. Naturally, 
therefore, the life and health of such a god-man are 
matters of anxious concern to the people whose welfare 
and even existence are bound up with his ; naturally 
he is constrained by them to conform to such rules as 
the wit of early man has devised for averting the ills 
to which flesh is heir, including the last ill, death. 
These rules, as an examination of them has shown, are 
nothing but the maxims with which, on the primitive 
view, every man of common prudence must comply 
if he would live long in the land. But while in the 
case of ordinary men the observance of the rules is 
left to the choice of the individual, in the case of the 
god-man it is enforced under penalty of dismissal from 
his high station, or even of death. For his worship- 
pers have far too great a stake in his life to allow him 
to play fast and loose with it. Therefore all the 
quaint superstitions, the old-world maxims, the vener- 
able saws which the ingenuity of savage philosophers 
elaborated long ago, and which old women at chimney 
corners still impart as treasures of great price to their 
descendants gathered round the cottage fire on winter 
evenings — all these antique fancies clustered, all these 
cobwebs of the brain were spun about the path of the 
old king, the human god, who, immeshed in them like 



a fly in the toils of a spider, could hardly stir a limb 
for the threads of custom, "light as air but strong as 
links of iron," that crossino^ and recrossinof each other 
in an endless maze bound him fast within a network of 
observances from which death or deposition alone 
could release him. 

To students of the past the life of the old kings 
and priests thus teems with instruction. In it was 
summed up all that passed for wisdom when the 
world was young. It was the perfect pattern after 
which every man strove to shape his life ; a faultless 
model constructed with rigorous accuracy upon the 
lines laid down by a barbarous philosophy. Crude and 
false as that philosophy may seem to us, it would be 
unjust to deny it the merit of logical consistency. 
Starting from a conception of the vital principle as a 
tiny being or soul existing in, but distinct and separ- 
able from, the living being, it deduces for the practical 
guidance of life a system of rules which in general 
hangs well together and forms a fairly complete and 
harmonious whole. The flaw — and it is a fatal one — 
of the system lies not in its reasoning, but in its pre- 
mises ; in its conception of the nature of life, not in 
any irrelevancy of the conclusions which it draws from 
that conception. But to stigmatise these premises as 
ridiculous because we can easily detect their falseness, 
would be ungrateful as well as unphilosophical. We 
stand upon the foundation reared by the generations 
that have gone before, and we can but dimly realise 
the painful and prolonged efforts which it has cost 
humanity to struggle up to the point, no very exalted 
one after all, which we have reached. Our gratitude 
is due to the nameless and forgotten toilers, whose 
patient thought and active exertions have largely made 


US what we are. The amount of new knowledge 
which one age, certainly which one man, can add to 
the common store is small, and it argues stupidity or 
dishonesty, besides ingratitude, to ignore the heap 
while vaunting the few grains which it may have been 
our privilege to add to it. There is indeed little 
danger at present of undervaluing the contributions 
which modern times and even classical antiquity have 
made to the general advancement of our race. But 
when we pass these limits, the case is different. 
Contempt and ridicule or abhorrence and denunciation 
are too often the only recognition vouchsafed to the 
savage and his ways. Yet of the benefactors whom 
we are bound thankfully to commemorate, many, per- 
haps most, were savages. For when all is said and 
done our resemblances to the savage are still far more 
numerous than our differences from him ; and what we 
have in common with him, and deliberately retain as 
true and useful, we owe to our savage forefathers who 
slowly acquired by experience and transmitted to us by 
inheritance those seemingly fundamental ideas which 
we are apt to regard as original and intuitive. We 
are like heirs to a fortune which has been handed 
down for so many ages that the memory of those who 
built it up is lost, and its possessors for the time being 
regard it as having been an original and unalterable 
possession of their race since the beginning of the 
world. But reflection and inquiry should satisfy us 
that to our predecessors we are indebted for much of 
what we thought most our own, and that their errors 
were not wilful extravagances or the ravings of insanity, 
but simply hypotheses, justifiable as such at the time 
when they were propounded, but which a fuller experi- 
ence has proved to be inadequate. It is only by the 


successive testing of hypotheses and rejection of the 
false that truth is at last elicited. After all, what we 
call truth is only the hypothesis which is found to 
work best. Therefore in reviewing the opinions and 
practices of ruder ages and races we shall do well to 
look with leniency upon their errors as inevitable slips 
made in the search for truth, and to give them the 
benefit of that indulgence which we may one day stand 
in need of ourselves : cum exciLsatione itaqiie vetercs 
atidiendi sunt. 



"Sed adhuc supersunt aliae superstitiones, quarum secreta pandenda 
sunt, . . . ut et in istis profanis religionibus sciatis mortes esse 
hominum consecratas." — FlRiNlicus Maternus, Dc crrore profimaruin 
religionwn^ c. 6. 

§ I, — Killing the divine king 

Lacking the idea of eternal duration primitive man 
naturally supposes the gods to be mortal like himself. 
The Greenlanders believed that a wind could kill their 
most powerful god, and that he would certainly die 
if he touched a dog. When they heard of the Christian 
God, they kept asking if he 7iever died, and being 
informed that he did not, they were much surprised 
and said that he must be a very great god indeed.^ 
In answer to the inquiries of Colonel Dodge, a North 
American Indian stated that the world was made by 
the Great Spirit. Being asked which Great Spirit he 
meant, the good one or the bad one, "Oh, neither of 
them.'' replied he, "the Great Spirit that made the 
world is dead long ago. He could not possibly have 
lived as long as this.""- A tribe in the Philippine 
Islands told the Spanish conquerors that the grave of 

1 Meiners, Gcschichte der Religioneu, -' R. I. Dodge, Our Wild Indians, 

i. 48. p. 112. 


the Creator was upon the top of Mount Cabunian.^ 
Heitsi-eibib, a god or divine hero of the Hottentots, 
died several times and came to Hfe again. His graves 
are generally to be met with in narrow passes between 
mountains.- The grave of Zeus, the great god of 
Greece, was shown to visiters in Crete as late as about 
the beginning of our era.^ The body of Dionysus was 
buried at Delphi beside the golden statue of Apollo, 
and his tomb bore the inscription, 'T-iere lies Dionysus 
dead, the son of Semele."^ According to one account, 
Apollo himself was buried at Delphi ; for Pythagoras 
is said to have carved an inscription on his tomb, 
setting forth how the god had been killed by the 
python and buried under the tripod.^ Cronus was 
buried in Sicily, '^ and the graves of Hermes, Aphrodite, 
and Ares were shown in HermopoHs, Cyprus, and 

If the great invisible gods are thus supposed to 
die, it is not to be expected that a god who dwells in 
the flesh and blood of a man should escape the same 
fate. Now primitive peoples, as we have seen, some- 
times believe that their safety and even that of the 
world is bound up with the life of one of these god- 
men or human incarnations of the divinity. Naturally, 
therefore, they take the utmost care of his life, out of 
a regard for their own. But no amount of care and 
precaution will prevent the man-god from growing old 
and feeble and at last dying. His worshippers have 

1 Blumentiitt, "DerAhnencultusund Mela, ii. 7, 112; Minucius Felix, 
die relig. Anschauungen der Malaien Oc/a-'ius, 21. 

des Philippinen - Archipels," in Jllit- * Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 35 ; 

theilungen d. Wiener Geogr. Gesellschaft, Philochorus, Frag7ii. 22, in Miiller's 

1882, p. 198. Fragm. Hist. Graec, i. p. 387. 

2 Theophilus Hahn, Tsiini- Goaiu, ^ Porphjny, Vit. Pythag. 16. 

the Supreiiie Being of the Khoi-Khoi, " Philochorus, Fr. 184, in Fragm. 

pp. 56, 69. Hist. Graec. ii. p. 414. 

■^ Diodorus, iii. 61 ; Pomponius ' Lobeck, Aglaophannis, p. 574 sq. 


to lay their account with this sad necessity and to 
meet it as best they can. The danger is a formidable 
one ; for if the course of nature is dependent on the 
man-god's life, what catastrophes may not be expected 
from the gradual enfeeblement of his powers and their 
final extinction in death ? There is only one way 
of averting these dangers. The man -god must be 
killed as soon as he shows symptoms that his powers 
are beginning to fail, and his soul must be transferred 
to a vigorous successor before it has been seriously 
impaired by the threatened decay. The advantages 
of thus putting the man-god to death instead of allow- 
ing him to die of old age and disease are, to the 
savage, obvious enough. For if the man -god dies 
what we call a natural death, it means, according 
to the savage, that his soul has either voluntarily 
departed from his body and refuses to return, or more 
commonly that it has been extracted or at least detained 
in its wanderings by a demon or sorcerer,^ In any of 
these cases the soul of the man -god is lost to his 
worshippers ; and with it their prosperity is gone and 
their very existence endangered. Even if they could 
arrange to catch the soul of the dying god as it left his 
lips or his nostrils and so transfer it to a successor, this 
would not effect their purpose ; for, thus dying of 
disease, his soul would necessarily leave his body in 
the last stage of weakness and exhaustion, and as such 
it would continue to drag out a feeble existence in the 
body to which it might be transferred. Whereas by 
killing him his worshippers could, in the first place, 
make sure of catching his soul as it escaped and 
transferring it to a suitable successor ; and, in the 
second place, by killing him before his natural force 

1 See above, p. 121 sqq. 


was abated, they would secure that the world should 
not fall into decay with the decay of the man -god. 
Every purpose, therefore, was answered, and all dangers 
averted by thus killing the man-god and transferring 
his soul, while yet at its prime, to a vigorous successor. 
Some of the reasons for preferring a violent death 
to the slow death of old age or disease are obviously 
as applicable to common men as to the man-god. Thus 
the Mangaians think that " the spirits of those who die 
a natural death are excessively feeble and weak, as 
their bodies were at dissolution ; whereas the spirits ot 
those who are slain in battle are strong and vigorous, 
their bodies not having been reduced by disease."^ 
Hence, men sometimes prefer to kill themselves or to 
be killed before they grow feeble, in order that in the 
future life their souls may start fresh and vigorous as 
they left their bodies, instead of decrepit and worn out 
with age and disease. Thus in Fiji, "self-immolation 
is by no means rare, and they believe that as they 
leave this life, so they will remain ever after. This 
forms a powerful motive to escape from decrepitude, 
or from a crippled condition, by a voluntary death.'"' 
Or, as another observer of the Fijians puts it more 
fully, "the custom of voluntary suicide on the part of 
the old men, which is among their most extraordinary 
usages, is also connected with their superstitions respect- 
ing a future life. They believe that persons enter 
upon the delights of their elysium with the same 
faculties, mental and physical, that they possess at 
the hour of death, in short, that the spiritual life 
commences where the corporeal existence terminates. 

1 Gill, Myths and Songs of the South - Ch. Wilkes, Narrative of the U.S. 

Pacific, p. 163. Exploring Expedition (London, 1845), 

iii. 96. 


With these views, it is natural that they should desire 
to pass through this change before their mental and 
bodily powers are so enfeebled by age as to deprive 
them of their capacity for enjoyment. To this motive 
must be added the contempt which attaches to physical 
weakness among a nation of warriors, and the wrongs 
and insults which await those who are no longer able 
to protect themselves. When therefore a man finds 
his strength declining with the advance of age, and 
feels that he will soon be unequal to discharge the 
duties of this life, and to partake in the pleasures of 
that which is to come, he calls together his relations, 
and tells them that he is now worn out and useless, 
that he sees they are all ashamed of him, and 
that he has determined to be buried." So on a day 
appointed they meet and bury him alive.^ In Vate 
(New Hebrides) the aged were buried alive at their 
own request. It was considered a disgrace to the 
family of an old chief if he was not buried alive. '-^ Of 
the Kamants, a Jewish tribe in Abyssinia, it is reported 
that "they never let a person die a natural death, but 
if any of their relatives is nearly expiring, the priest of 
the village is called to cut his throat ; if this be omitted, 
they believe that the departed soul has not entered the 
mansions of the blessed." "' 

But it is with the death of the god-man — the divine 
king or priest — that we are here especially concerned. 
The people of Congo believed, as we have seen, that 
if their pontiff the Chitome were to die a natural death, 

1 U.S. Exploring Expedition, Eth- 2 Turner, Samoa, p. 335. 

nology and Philology, by H. Hale "^ M7ix\xa.Y\d,^, A Short Description of 

(Philadelphia, 1846), p. 65. Cp. Th. the Falasha and Kamants iji Abyssinia, 

Y^'iWiSLms, Fiji a}id the FijiaJis, I. 183; p. 19. 
J. E. 'ExsXdnt, Journal of a Cruise among 
the Islands of the Western Pacific, p. 248. 


the world would perish, and the earth, which he alone 
sustained by his power and merit, would immediately 
be annihilated. Accordingly when he fell ill and 
seemed likely to die, the man who was destined to 
be his successor entered the pontiff's house with a 
rope or a club and strangled or clubbed him to death. ^ 
The Ethiopian kings of Meroe were worshipped as 
gods ; but whenever the priests chose, they sent a 
messenger to the king, ordering him to die, and alleg- 
ing an oracle of the gods as their authority for the 
command. This command the kings always obeyed 
down to the reign of Ergamenes, a contemporary of 
Ptolemy II, King of Egypt. Having received a 
Greek education which emancipated him from the super- 
stitions of his countrymen, Ergamenes ventured to dis- 
regard the command of the priests, and, entering the 
Golden Temple with a body of soldiers, put the priests 
to the sword.' In the kingdom of Unyoro in Central 
Africa, custom still requires that as soon as the king falls 
seriously ill or begins to break up from age, he shall be 
killed by his own wives ; for, according to an old pro- 
phecy, the throne will pass away from the dynasty in 
the event of the king dying a natural death. ^ When 
the king of Kibanga, on the Upper Congo, seems 
near his end, the sorcerers put a rope round his neck, 
which they draw gradually tighter till he dies.^ It 
seems to have been a Zulu custom to put the king to 
death as soon as he began to have wrinkles or gray 
hairs. At least this seems implied in the following 

^ J. B. Labat, Relation Jiistorique de being a Collection of his Letters and 

VEthiopie Occidaitale, i. 260 sq. ; W. Journals (London, 1888), p. 91. 

WinwoodReade, .S'a&a^-^^/rzVa, p. 362. * P. Guilleme, " Credenze religiose 

- Diodorus Siculus, iii. 6 ; Strabo, dei Negri di Kibanga nell' Alto Congo," 

xvii. 2, 3. in Archivio per lo studio delle tradizioni 

3 Einin Pasha in Central Africa, popolari, vii. (1888) p. 231. 


passage, written by one who resided for some time at 
the court of the notorious Zulu tyrant Chaka, in the 
early part of this century : " The extraordinary violence 
of the king's rage with me was mainly occasioned by 
that absurd nostrum, the hair oil, with the notion of 
which Mr. Farewell had impressed him as being a 
specific for removing all indications of age. From the 
first moment of his having heard that such a prepara- 
tion was attainable, he evinced a solicitude to procure 
it, and on every occasion never forgot to remind us of 
his anxiety respecting it ; more especially on our 
departure on the mission his injunctions were 
particularly directed to this object. It will be seen 
that it is one of the barbarous customs of the Zoolas in 
their choice or election of their kings that he must 
neither have wrinkles nor gray hairs, as they are both 
distinguishing marks of disqualification for becoming 
a monarch of a warlike people. It Is also equally 
indispensable that their king should never exhibit 
those proofs of having become unfit and Incompetent 
to reign ; it is therefore Important that they should con- 
ceal these Indications so long as they possibly can. 
Chaka had become greatly apprehensive of the approach 
of gray hairs; which would at once be the signal for him 
to prepare to make his exit from this sublunary world, 
it being always followed by the death of the monarch."^ 
The custom of putting kings to death as soon as they 
suffered from any personal defect prevailed two centuries 
ago in the Kafir kingdoms of Sofala, to the north of the 
present Zululand. These kings of Sofala, as we have 
seen,- were regarded as gods by their people, being en- 
treated to give rain or sunshine, according as each might 

1 Nathaniel Isaacs, Travels and Adveniurcs hi Eastern Africa, i. p. 295 sq., cp. 
pp. 232, 290 sq. 2 Above, p. 45 sq. 


be wanted. Nevertheless a slight bodily blemish, such 
as the loss of a tooth, was considered a sufficient cause 
for putting one of these god-men to death, as we learn 
from the following passage of an old historian. " Con- 
tiguous to the domains of the Ouiteva [the king of the 
country bordering on the river Sofala], are those of 
another prince called Sedanda. This prince becoming 
afflicted with leprosy, resolved on following implicitly 
the laws of the country, and poisoning himself, con- 
ceiving his malady to be incurable, or at least that it 
would render him so loathsome in the eyes of his 
people that they would with difficulty recognise him. 
In consequence he nominated his successor, holding as 
his opinion that sovereigns who should serve in all 
things as an example to their people ought to have no 
defect whatever, even in their persons ; that when any 
defects may chance to befall them they cease to be 
worthy of life and of governing their dominions ; and 
preferring death in compliance with this law to life, 
with the reproach of having been its violator. But 
this law was not observed with equal scrupulosity by 
one of the Ouitevas, who, having lost a tooth and 
feeling no disposition to follow the practice of his pre- 
decessors, published to the people that he had lost a 
front tooth, in order that when they might behold, they 
yet might be able to recognise him ; declaring at the 
same time that he was resolved on living and reigning 
as long as he could, esteeming his existence requisite 
for the welfare of his subjects. He at the same time 
loudly condemned the practice of his predecessors, whom 
he taxed with imprudence, nay, even with madness, for 
having condemned themselves to death for casual 
accidents to their persons, confessing plainly that it 
would be with much regret, even when the course of 


nature should bring him to his end, that he should 
submit to die. He observed, moreover, that no reason- 
able being, much less a monarch, ought to anticipate 
the scythe of time ; and, abrogating this mortal law, 
he ordained that all his successors, if sane, should fol- 
low the precedent he gave, and the new law established 
by him." ^ 

This King of Sofala was, therefore, a bold reformer 
like Ergamenes, King of Ethiopia. We may con- 
jecture that the ground for putting the Ethiopian 
kings to death was, as in the case of the Zulu and 
Sofala kings, the appearance on their person of any 
bodily defect or sign of decay ; and that the oracle 
which the priests alleged as the authority for the royal 
execution was to the effect that great calamities would 
result from the reign of a king who had any blemish 
on his body ; just as an oracle warned Sparta against 
a "lame reign," that is, the reign of a lame king.^ 
This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that the kings 
of Ethiopia were chosen for their size, strength, and 
beauty long before the custom of killing them was 
abolished.^ To this day the Sultan of Wadai must 
have no obvious bodily defect, and a king of Angoy 
cannot be crowned if he has a single blemish, such as 
a broken or filed tooth or the scar of an old wound.'* 
It is only natural, therefore, to suppose, especially 

^ Dos Santos, " History of Eastern to the throne when the king had no 

Ethiopia " (published at Paris in 1684), heirs, the heirs being the sons of his 

in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, sisters. But this limitation is not 

xvi. 684. mentioned by the other authorities. 

- Plutarch, Agesilans, 3. 

Among the Gordioi the fattest man 
was chosen king ; among the Syrakoi, 

3 Herodotus, iii. 20 ; Aristotle, Poll- the tallest, or the man with the longest 

tics, iv. 4, 4 ; Athenaeus, xiii. p. 566. head. Zenobius, v. 25. 

According to Nicolaus Damascenus * G. Nachtigal, Sahara, wid Sudan 

[Fr. 142, in Fragin. Historic. Graecor. (Leipzig, 1889), iii. 225 ; Bastian, Die 

ed. C. Miiller, iii. p. 463), the hand- deiitsche Expedition an derLoango-Kicite, 

somest and bravest man was only raised i. 220. 


with the other African examples before us, that any 
bodily defect or symptom of old age appearing on the 
person of the Ethiopian monarch was the signal for 
his execution. At a later time it is recorded that if 
the King of Ethiopia became maimed in any part of his 
body all his courtiers had to suffer the" same mutila- 
tion/ But this rule may perhaps have been instituted 
at the time when the custom of killino; the kine for 
any personal defect was abolished ; instead of compel- 
ling the king- to die because, e.g., he had lost a tooth, 
all his subjects would be obliged to lose a tooth, 
and thus the invidious superiority of the subjects 
over the king would be cancelled. A rule of this 
sort is still observed in the same region at the 
court of the Sultans of Darfur. When the Sultan 
coughs, every one makes the sound ts ts by striking 
the tongue against the root of the upper teeth ; when 
he sneezes, the whole assembly utters a sound like the 
cry of the jeko ; when he falls off his horse, all his 
followers must fall off likewise ; if any one of them 
remains in the saddle, no matter how high his 
rank, he is laid on the ground and beaten.- At the 
court of the King of Uganda in Central Africa, when 
the king laughs, every one laughs ; when he sneezes, 
every one sneezes ; when he has a cold, every one 
pretends to have a cold ; when he has his hair cut, so 
has every one.^ At the court of Boni in Celebes it is 
a rule that whatever the king does all the courtiers 
must do. If he stands, they stand ; if he sits, they sit ; 

1 Strabo, xvii.-2, 3 ; Diodorus, iii. 7. 78 ; Bulletin dc la Socicte de Geographic 

2 Mohammed Ebn- Omar El-Tounsy, (Paris) IVme Serie, iv. (1852) p. 539 sq. 
Voyage azc Darfour (Paris, 1845), p. ^ ji^_ \y_ Pelkin, "Notes on the 
162 sq. ; Travels of an Arab Merchant Waganda Tribe of Central Africa," in 
in Soudan, abridged from the French Proceedings of the Royal Society of 
by Bayle St. John (London, 1854), p. Edinburgh, xiii. (1884-1886) p. 711. 


if he falls off his horse, they fall off their horses ; if 
he bathes, they bathe, and passers-by must go into the 
water in the dress, good or bad, which they happen to 
have on.^ But to return to the death of the divine 
man. The old Prussians acknowledged as their supreme 
lord a ruler who governed them in the name of the 
gods, and was known as God's Mouth (Kirzuaido). 
When he felt himself weak and ill. If he wished to leave 
a good name behind him, he had a great heap made of 
thorn-bushes and straw, on which he mounted and de- 
livered a long sermon to the people, exhorting them to 
serve the gods and promising to go to the gods and 
speak for the people. Then he took some of the per- 
petual fire which burned in front of the holy oak-tree, 
and lighting the pile with it burned himself to death." 

In the cases hitherto described, the divine king 
or priest is suffered by his people to retain office 
until some outward defect, some visible symptom of 
failing health or advancing age warns them that he 
is no longer equal to the discharge of his divine 
duties ; but not until such symptoms have made 
their appearance is he put to death. Some peoples, 
however, appear to have thought it unsafe to wait for 
even the slightest symptom of decay and have pre- 
ferred to kill the king while he was still in the full 
vigour of life. Accordingly, they have fixed a term 
beyond which he might not reign, and at the close of 
which he must die, the term fixed upon being short 
enough to exclude the probability of his degenerat- 
ing physically in the interval. In some parts of 
Southern India the period fixed was twelve years. 

^ Narrative of events in Borneo and ^ Simon Grunau, Preussische C/iro- 

Celebes, from, the Journals of Ja?nes 7tik, herausgegeben von Dr. M. Perl- 

Bi'ooke, Esq., Rajah of Sarawak. By bach (Leipzig, 1876), i. p. 97. 
Captain R. Mundy, i. 134. 


Thus, according to an old traveller, in the province of 
Ouilacare " There is a Gentile house of prayer, in which 
there is an idol which they hold in great account, and 
every twelve years they celebrate a great feast to it, 
whither all the Gentiles go as to a jubilee. This temple 
possesses many lands and much revenue ; it is a very 
great affair. This province has a king over it ; who 
has not more than twelve years to reign from jubilee 
to jubilee. His manner of living is in this wise, that 
is to say, when the twelve years are completed, on the 
day of this feast there assemble together innumerable 
people, and much money is spent in giving food to 
Bramans. The king has a wooden scaffolding made, 
spread over with silken hangings ; and on that day he 
goes to bathe at a tank with great ceremonies and 
sound of music, after that he comes to the idol and 
prays to it, and mounts on to the scaffolding, and there 
before all the people he takes some very sharp knives 
and begins to cut off his nose, and then his ears and 
his lips and all his members and as much flesh of 
himself as he can ; and he throws it away very hurriedly 
until so much of his blood is spilled that he begins to 
faint, and then he cuts his throat himself. And he 
performs this sacrifice to the idol ; and whoever desires 
to reign other twelve years, and undertake this 
martyrdom for love of the idol, has to be present look- 
ing on at this ; and from that place they raise him up 
as king^." ^ 

Formerly the Samorin or King of Calicut, on the 
Malabar coast, had also to cut his throat in public 
at the end of a twelve years' reign. But towards the 
end of the seventeenth century the rule had been 

1 Barbosa, A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the be- 
ginning of the Sixteenth Century (Hakluyt Society, 1866), p. 172 sq. 


modified as follows : " A new custom is followed by 
the modern Samorins, that jubilee is proclaimed 
throughout his dominions, at the end of twelve years, 
and a tent is pitched for him in a spacious plain, and a 
great feast is celebrated for ten or twelve days, with 
mirth and jollity, guns firing night and day, so at the 
end of the feast any four of the guests that have a mind 
to gain a crown by a desperate action, in fighting their 
way through 30 or 40,000 of his guards, and kill the 
Samorin in his tent, he that kills him succeeds him in 
his empire. In anno 1695, one of those jubilees hap- 
pened, and the tent pitched near Pennany, a sea-port 
of his, about fifteen leagues to the southward of Cali- 
cut. There were but three men that would venture on 
that desperate action, who fell in, with sword and 
target among the guard, and, after they had killed and 
wounded many were themselves killed. One of the 
desperados had a nephew of fifteen or sixteen years 
of age, that kept close by his uncle in the attack on 
the guards, and, when he saw him fall, the youth got 
through the guards into the tent, and made a stroke at 
his Majesty's head, and had certainly despatched him, 
if a large brass lamp which was burning over his head, 
had not marred the blow ; but, before he could make 
another he was killed by the guards ; and, I believe, 
the same Samorin reigns yet. I chanced to come that 
time alonof the coast and heard the oruns for two or 
three days and nights successively." ^ 

In some places it appears that the people could not 
trust the king to remain in full bodily and mental 
vigour for more than a year ; hence at the end of a 
year's reign he was put to death, and a new king 

1 Alex. Hamilton, "Anew Account of the East Indies," in Pinkerton's 
Voyages and Travels, viii. 374. 



appointed to reign in his turn a year, and suffer death 
at the end of it. At least this is the conclusion to 
which the following evidence points. According to 
the historian Berosus, who as a Babylonian priest 
spoke with ample knowledge, there was annually cele- 
brated in Babylon a festival called the Sacaea. It 
began on the i6th day of the month Lous, and lasted 
for five days. During these five days masters and 
servants changed places, the servants giving orders 
and the masters obeying them. A prisoner condemned 
to death was dressed in the king's robes, seated on the 
king's throne, allowed to issue whatever commands he 
pleased, to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, and to lie 
with the king's concubines. But at the end of the 
five days he was stripped of his royal robes, scourged, 
and crucified.^ This custom might perhaps have been 
explained as merely a grim jest perpetrated in a season 
of jollity at the expense of an unhappy criminal. But 
one circumstance — the leave given to the mock king 
to enjoy the king's concubines — is decisive against this 
interpretation. Considering the jealous seclusion of 

1 Athenaeus, xiv. p. 639 C ; Dio Bachofen, Die Sage von Tanaqnil, p. 

Chrysostom, Orat. iv. p. 69 sq. (vol. i. 52, note 16. The custom, so far as 

p. 76, ed. Dindorf). Dio Chryso- appears from our authorities, does not 

stom does not mention his authority, but date from before the Persian domina- 

it was probably either Berosus or Ctesias. tion in Babylon; but probably it was 

Though the execution of the mock king much older. In the passage of Dio 

is not mentioned in the passage of Chrysostom eKpifxacrai' should be trans- 

Berosus cited by Athenaeus, the lated "crucified" (or "impaled"), 

omission is probably due to the fact not "hung." It is strange that this, 

that the mention of it was not germane the regular, sense of KpefxdvvvfiL, as 

to Athenaeus's purpose, which was applied to executions, should not 

simply to give a list of festivals at be noticed even in the latest edition 

which masters waited on their servants. of Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon. 

That the fwYai/?;? was put to death is Hanging, though a mode of suicide, 

further shown by Macrobius, Sat. iii. was not a mode of execution in antiquity 

7, 6, '■'■ Ani7nas vera sacratorum ho7ni- either in the east or west. In one of 

mim quos + zanas Graeci vacant, dis the passages cited by L. and S. for the 

debitas aestiinahant,'''' where for zanas sense "to hang" (Plutarch, Caes. 2), 

we should probably read fw7dcas with the context proves that the meaning is 

Liebrecht, in Pkilologzts, xxii. 710, and "to crucify." 



an oriental despot's harem we may be quite certain 
that permission to invade it would never have been 
granted by the despot, least of all to a condemned 
criminal, except for the very gravest cause. This 
cause could hardly be other than that the condemned 
man was about to die in the king's stead, and that to 
make the substitution perfect it was necessary he 
should enjoy the full rights of royalty during his brief 
reign. There is nothing surprising in this substi- 
tution. The rule that the king must be put to death 
either on the appearance of any symptom of bodily 
decay or at the end of a fixed period is certainly one 
which, sooner or later, the kings would seek to abolish 
or modify. We have seen that in Ethiopia and Sofala 
the rule was boldly set aside by enlightened monarchs ; 
and that in Calicut the old custom of killing the king 
at the end of twelve years was changed into a per- 
mission granted to any one at the end of the twelve 
years' period to attack the king, and, in the event of 
killing him, to reign in his stead ; though, as the king 
took care at these times to be surrounded by his 
guards, the permission was little more than a form. 
Another way of modifying the stern old rule is seen 
in the Babylonian custom just described. When the 
time drew near for the king to be put to death (in 
Babylon this appears to have been at the end of a 
single year's reign) he abdicated for a few days, during 
which a temporary king reigned and suffered in his 
stead. At first the temporary king may have been an 
innocent person, possibly a member of the king's own 
family; but with the growth of civilisation the sacrifice 
of an innocent person would be revolting to the public 
sentiment, and accordingly a condemned criminal would 
be invested with the brief and fatal sovereignty. In 


the sequel we shall find other examples of a dying 
criminal representing a dying god. For we must not 
forget that the king is slain in his character of a 
god, his death and resurrection, as the only means of 
perpetuating the divine life unimpaired, being deemed 
necessary for the salvation of his people and the world. 
In some places this modified form of the old custom 
has been further softened down. The king still ab- 
dicates annually for a short time and his place is filled 
by a more or less nominal sovereign ; but at the close 
of his short reign the latter is no longer killed, though 
sometimes a mock execution still survives as a memorial 
of the time when he was actually put to death. To 
take examples. In the month of Meac (February) the 
King of Cambodia annually abdicated for three days. 
During this time he performed no act of authority, he 
did not touch the seals, he did not even receive the 
revenues which fell due. In his stead there reigned a 
temporary king called Sdach Meac, that is, King Feb- 
ruary. The office of temporary king was hereditary 
in a family distantly connected with the royal house, 
the sons succeeding the fathers and the younger 
brothers the elder brothers, just as in the succession to 
the real sovereignty. On a favourable day fixed by 
the astrologers the temporary king was conducted by 
the mandarins in triumphal procession. He rode one 
of the royal elephants, seated in the royal palanquin, 
and escorted by soldiers who, dressed in appropriate 
costumes, represented the neighbouring peoples of 
Siam, Annam, Laos, and so on. Instead of the golden 
crown he wore a peaked white cap, and his regalia, 
instead of being of gold encrusted with diamonds, were 
of rough wood. After paying homage to the real king, 
from whom he received the sovereignty for three days, 


together with all the revenues accruing during that 
time (though this last custom has been omitted for 
some time), he moved in procession round the palace 
and through the streets of the capital. On the third 
day, after the usual procession, the temporary king 
gave orders that the elephants should trample under 
foot the "mountain of rice," which was a scaffold of 
bamboo surrounded by sheaves of rice. The people 
gathered up the rice, each man taking home a little 
with him to secure a good harvest. Some of it was also 
taken to the king, who had it cooked and presented to 
the monks. ^ 

In Siam on the sixth day of the moon in the 
sixth month (the end of April) a temporary king is 
appointed, who for three days enjoys the royal prero- 
gatives, the real king remaining shut up in his palace. 
This temporary king sends his numerous satellites in 
all directions to seize and confiscate whatever they can 
find in the bazaar and open shops ; even the ships and 
junks which arrive in harbour during the three days 
are confiscated to him and must be redeemed. He 
goes to a field in the middle of the city, whither is 
brought a gilded plough drawn by gaily-decked oxen. 
After the plough has been anointed and the oxen 
rubbed with incense, the mock king traces nine furrows 
with the plough, followed by aged dames of the palace 
scattering the first seed of the season. As soon as the 
nine furrows are drawn, the crowd of spectators rushes 
in and scrambles for the seed which has just been sown, 
believing that, mixed with the seed-rice, it will ensure 
a plentiful crop. Then the oxen are unyoked, and 

1 E. Aymonier, Notice siir le Cam- of the temporary king's family with the 
bodge, p. 61 ; J. Moura, Le Royajune die royal house, see Aymonier, op. cit. p. 
Ca?nbodge,\. TyZ"] sq. For the connection 36 j-r/. 


rice, maize, sesame, sago, bananas, sugar-cane, melons, 
etc. are set before them ; whatever they eat first will, 
it is thought, be dear in the year following, though 
some people interpret the omen in the opposite sense. 
During this time the temporary king stands leaning 
against a tree with his right foot resting on his left 
knee. From standing thus on one foot he is popularly 
known as King Hop ; but his official title is Phaya 
Phollathep, "Lord of the Heavenly Hosts." ^ He is 
a sort of Minister of Agriculture ; all disputes about 
fields, rice, and so on, are referred to him. There is 
moreover another ceremony in which he personates the 
king. It takes place in the second month (which falls 
in the cold season) and lasts three days. He is con- 
ducted in procession to an open place opposite the 
Temple of the Brahmans, where there are a number of 
poles dressed like May-poles, upon which the Brah- 
mans swing. All the while that they swing and dance, 
the Lord of the Heavenly Hosts has to stand on one 
foot upon a seat which is made of bricks plastered over, 
covered with a white cloth, and hung with tapestry. 
He is supported by a wooden frame with a gilt canopy, 
and two Brahmans stand one on each side of him. The 
dancing Brahmans carry buffalo horns with which they 
draw water from a large copper caldron and sprinkle it 
on the people ; this is supposed to bring good luck, 
causing the people to dwell in peace and quiet, health 
and prosperity. The time during which the Lord of 
the Heavenly Hosts has to stand on one foot is about 
three hours. This is thought " to prove the dispositions 
of the Devattas and spirits." If he lets his foot down 

1 Pallegoix, Description dii Royaume Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, ix. 

Thai on Siam, i. 250; Bastian, Die 581 sq. Bowring {Siavi, i. 158 sq.) 

Volker des ostlichen Asian, iii. 305-309, copies, as usual, from Pallegoix. 
526-528 ; Turpin, History of Siam, in 

1 1 1 TEMP OR A R V KINGS 23 1 

" he is liable to forfeit his property and have his family 
enslaved by the king ; as it is believed to be a bad 
omen, portending destruction to the state, and insta- 
bility to the throne. But if he stand firm he is believed 
to have gained a victory over evil spirits, and he has 
moreover the privilege, ostensibly at least, of seizing 
any ship which may enter the harbour during these 
three days, and taking its contents, and also of entering 
any open shop in the town and carrying away what he 

In Upper Egypt on the first day of the solar year 
by Coptic reckoning, that is on loth September, when 
the Nile has generally reached its highest point, the 
regular government is suspended for three days and 
every town chooses its own ruler. This temporary 
lord wears a sort of tall fool's cap and a long flaxen 
beard, and is enveloped in a strange mantle. With a 
wand of office in his hand and attended by men dis- 
guised as scribes, executioners, etc., he proceeds to the 
Governor's house. The latter allows himself to be 
deposed ; and the mock king, mounting the throne, 
holds a tribunal, to the decisions of which even the 
governor and his officials must bow. After three days 
the mock king is condemned to death ; the envelope 
or shell in which he was encased is committed to the 
flames, and from its ashes the Fellah creeps forth.' 

Sometimes the temporary king occupies the throne, 
not annually, but once for all at the beginning of each 
reign. Thus in the kingdom of Jambi (in Sumatra) it 
is the custom that at the beginning of a new reign 
a man of the people should occupy the throne and 

1 Lieut. Col. James Low, "On the des ostliclmi Asien, iii. 98, 314, 526 sq. 

Laws of Muung Thai or Siam," mjour- 2 c. B. Klunzinger, Bilder aus Ober- 

nal of the Indian Archipelago, \. (Singa- agypten, der Wiiste wtd detn Rothen 

pore, 1847) p. 339; Bastian, Die Vdlkei- Mecre, p. 180 sq. 


exercise the royal prerogatives for a single day. The 
origin of the custom is explained by a tradition that 
there were once five royal brothers, the four elder 
of whom all declined the crown on the ground of 
various bodily defects, leaving it to their youngest 
brother. But the eldest occupied the throne for one 
day, and reserved for his descendants a similar privilege 
at the beginning of every reign. Thus the office of 
temporary king is hereditary in a family akin to the 
royal house.^ In Bilaspur it seems to be the custom, 
after the death of a Rajah, for a Brahman to eat rice 
out of the dead Rajah's hand, and then to occupy the 
throne for a year. At the end of the year the Brahman 
receives presents and is dismissed from the territory, 
being forbidden apparently to return. " The idea seems 
to be that the spirit of the Raja enters into the Brahman 
who eats the khir (rice and milk) out of his hand when 
he is dead, as the Brahman is apparently carefully 
watched during the whole year, and not allowed to go 
away." The same or a similar custom is believed to 
obtain among the hill states about Kangra.' At the 
installation of a prince of Carinthia a peasant, in whose 
family the office was hereditary, ascended a marble 
stone which stood surrounded by meadows in a spacious 
valley ; on his right stood a black mother-cow, on his 
left an ugly mare. A rustic crowd gathered aboiJt 
him. Then the future prince, dressed as a peasant 
and carrying a shepherd's staff, drew near, attended by 
courtiers and magistrates. On perceiving him the 
peasant called out, "Who is this whom I see coming 
so proudly along ? " The people answered, " The 

1 J. W. Boers, "Cud volksgebruik in het Rijk van Jambi," in Tijdschrift 
voor Neerlancfs Indii', iii. (1840), dl. i. 372 sqq. 
^ Panjab Notes afid Queries, i. 674. 


prince of the land." The peasant was then prevailed 
on to surrender the marble seat to the prince on con- 
dition of receiving sixty pence, the cow and mare, and 
exemption from taxes. But before yielding his place 
he gave the prince a light blow on the cheek.^ 

Some points about these temporary kings deserve 
to be specially noticed before we pass to the next 
branch of the evidence. In the first place, the Cam- 
bodian and Siamese examples bring clearly out the 
fact that it is especially the divine or supernatural func- 
tions of the king which are transferred to his temporary 
substitute. This appears from the belief that by keeping 
up his foot the temporary king of Siam gained a victory 
over the evil spirits ; whereas by letting it down he 
imperilled the existence of the state. Again, the Cam- 
bodian ceremony of trampling down the " mountain 
of rice," and the Siamese ceremony of opening the 
ploughing and sowing, are charms to produce a plentiful 
harvest, as appears from the belief that those who carry 
home some of the trampled rice or of the seed sown 
will thereby secure a good crop. But the task of making 
the crops grow, thus deputed to the temporary kings, 
is one of the supernatural functions regularly supposed 
to be discharged by kings in primitive society. The 
rule that the mock king must stand on one foot upon 
a raised seat in the rice-field was perhaps originally 
meant as a charm to make the crop grow high ; at 
least this was the object of a similar ceremony observed 
by the old Prussians. The tallest girl, standing on one 
foot upon a seat, with her lap full of cakes, a cup 
of brandy in her right hand and a piece of elm-bark 

1 Aeneas Sylvius, Opera (Bale, to Grimm (who does not refer to Aeneas 
1571), p. 409 sq.; Grimm, Dmtsche Sylvius) the cow and mare stood beside 
Rechtsaltcrt/iiimer, p. 253. According the prince, not the peasant. 


or linden -bark in her left, prayed to the god Waiz- 
ganthos that the flax might grow as high as she 
was standing. Then, after draining the cup, she had 
it refilled, and poured the brandy on the ground as 
an offering to Waizganthos, and threw down the cakes 
for his attendant sprites. If she remained steady on 
one foot throughout the ceremony, it was an omen 
that the flax crop would be good ; but if she let her 
foot down, it was feared that the crop might fail.^ 
The gilded plough with which the Siamese mock king 
opens the ploughing may be compared with the bronze 
ploughs which the Etruscans employed at the cere- 
mony of founding cities ; - in both cases the use of 
iron was probably forbidden on superstitious grounds.^ 
Another point to notice about these temporary 
kings is that in two places (Cambodia and Jambi) 
they come of a stock which is believed to be akin 
to the royal family. If the view here taken of the 
origin of these temporary kingships is correct, the fact 
that the temporary king is sometimes of the same race 
as the real king admits of a ready explanation. When 
the king first succeeded in getting the life of another 
accepted as a sacrifice in lieu of his own, he would 
have to show that the death of that other would serve 
the purpose quite as well as his own would have done. 
Now it was as a god that the king had to die ; there- 
fore the substitute who died for him had to be invested, 
at least for the occasion, with the divine attributes of 
the king. This, as we have just seen, was certainly 
the case with the temporary kings of Siam and Cam- 

1 Lasicius, "De diis Samagitarum by W. Mannhardt in Magazin heraus- 

caeterorumque Sarmatarum," in Res- gegebe7i von der Lettisch-Literdrischen 

publica sive Status Regni Poloniae, Gesellschaft, xiv. 91 sq. 

Liiuaiiiae, Prussiae, Livoniae, etc. '^ Macrobius, Satui-n. v. 19, 13. 

(Elzevir, 1627), p. 306 sq.; id. edited ^ See above, p. 172 sqq. 


bodia ; they were invested with the supernatural 
functions, which in an earHer stage of society were 
the special attributes of the king. But no one could 
so well represent the king in his divine character as 
his son, who might be supposed to share the divine 
afflatus of his father. No one, therefore, could so 
appropriately die for the king and, through him, for 
the whole people, as the king's son. There is evidence 
that amongst the Semites of Western Asia (the very 
region where the redemption of the king's life by the 
sacrifice of another comes out so unmistakably in 
the Sacaean festival) the king, in a time of national 
danger, sometimes gave his own son to die as a 
sacrifice for the people. Thus Philo of Byblus, 
in his work on the Jews, says : " It was an ancient 
custom in a crisis of great danger that the ruler of a 
city or nation should give his beloved son to die for 
the whole people, as a ransom offered to the avenging 
demons ; and the children thus offered were slain with 
mystic rites. So Cronus, whom the Phoenicians call 
Israel, being king of the land and having an only- 
begotten son called Jeoud (for in the Phoenician tongue 
Jeoud signifies 'only-begotten'), dressed him in royal 
robes and sacrificed him upon an altar in a time of war, 
when the country was in great danger from the enemy. "^ 
When the King of Moab was besieged by the Israelites 
and hard beset, he took his eldest son, who should 
have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt 
offering on the wall.- But amongst the Semites the 
practice of sacrificing their children was not confined 
to kings. In times of great calamity, such as 
pestilence, drought, or defeat in war, the Phoenicians 

1 Philo of Byblus, quoted by Eusebius, Praepar. Evang. i. 10, 29 sq. 
- 2 Kings iii. 27. 


used to sacrifice one of their dearest to Baal. " Phoe- 
nician history," says an ancient writer, "is full of such 
sacrifices."^ When the Carthaginians were defeated 
and besieged by Agathocles, they ascribed their dis- 
asters to the wrath of Baal ; for whereas in former 
times they had been wont to sacrifice to him their own 
children, they had latterly fallen into the habit of buy- 
ing children and rearing them to be victims. So, to 
appease the angry god, two hundred children of the 
noblest families were picked out for sacrifice, and the 
tale of victims was swelled by not less than three 
hundred more who volunteered to die for the father- 
land. They were sacrificed by being placed, one by 
one, on the sloping hands of the brazen image, from 
which they rolled into a pit of fire." If an aristocracy 
thus adopted the practice of sacrificing other people's 
children instead of their own, kings may very well 
have followed or set the example. A final mitigation 
of the custom would be the substitution of condemned 
criminals for innocent victims. Such a substitution 
is known to have taken place in the human sacrifices 
annually offered in Rhodes to Baal.^ 

The custom of sacrificing children, especially the 
first born, is not peculiarly Semitic. In some tribes 
of New South Wales the first-born child of every 
woman was eaten by the tribe as part of a religious 
ceremony.'^ The Indians of Florida sacrificed their 
first-born male children.'^ Amongst the people of 
Senjero in Eastern Africa we are told that many 
families "must offer up their first-born sons as sacri- 

1 Porphyry, De abstin. ii. 56. * Brough Smyth, Aborigines of 

'Victoria, ii. 311. 

2 Diodoras, xx. 14. ^ Strachey, Historic of travaille itiio 

Virginia B7-itannia (Hakluyt Society), 

3 Porphyry, De abstin. ii. 54. p. 84. 


fices, because once upon a time, when summer and 
winter were jumbled together in a bad season, and 
the fruits of the earth would not ripen, the sooth- 
sayers enjoined it. At that time a great pillar 
of iron is said to have stood at the entrance of 
the capital, which by the advice of the soothsayers 
was broken down by order of the king, upon which 
the seasons became regular again. To avert the 
recurrence of such a confusion of the seasons, the 
soothsayers are reported to have enjoined the king 
to pour human blood once a year on the base of the 
broken shaft of the pillar, and also upon the throne. 
Since then certain families are obliged to deliver up 
their first-born sons, who are sacrificed at an appointed 
time."^ The heathen Russians often sacrificed their 
first-born to the god Perun,- 

The condemnation and pretended death by fire of 
the mock king in Egypt is probably a reminiscence 
of a real custom of burning him. Evidence of a 
practice of burning divine personages will be forth- 
coming later on. In Bilaspur the expulsion of the 
Brahman who had occupied the king's throne for 
a year is perhaps a substitute for putting him to 

The explanation here given of the custom of 
killing divine persons assumes, or at least is readily 
combined with, the idea that the soul of the slain 
divinity is transmitted to his successor. Of this trans- 
mission I have no direct proof; and so far a link in 

1 J. L. Krapf, Travels, Researches, may be doubted, but that the rest of 

and Missionary Labours during an the story harmonises well enough with 

Eighteen Years' Residence in Eastern African superstition. 

Africa, p. 69 sq. Dr. Krapf, who 2 y. J. Mone, Geschichte des Heid- 

reports the custom at second hand, enthuins im twrdlichen Europa, i. 

thinks that the existence of the pillar 119. 


the chain of evidence is wanting. But if I cannot 
prove by actual examples this succession to the soul 
of the slain god, it can at least be made probable 
that such a succession was supposed to take place. 
For it has been already shown that the soul of the 
incarnate deity is often supposed to transmigrate at 
death into another incarnation ; ^ and if this takes 
place when the death is a natural one, there seems 
no reason why it should not take place when the 
death is a violent one. Certainly the idea that the 
soul of a dying person may be transmitted to his 
successor is perfectly familiar to primitive peoples. 
In Nias the eldest son usually succeeds his father 
in the chieftainship. But if from any bodily or 
mental defect the eldest son is incapacitated from 
ruling, the father determines in his life -time which 
of his sons shall succeed him. In order, however, 
to establish his right of succession it is necessary 
that the son upon whom his father's choice falls shall 
catch in his mouth or in a bag the last breath, and 
with it the soul, of the dying chief. For whoever 
catches his last breath is chief equally with the 
appointed successor. Hence the other brothers, and 
sometimes also strangers, crowd round the dying 
man to catch his soul as it passes. The houses in 
Nias are raised above the ground on posts, and it 
has happened that when the dying man lay with his 
face on the floor, one of the candidates has bored a 
hole in the floor and sucked in the chief's last 
breath through a bamboo tube. When the chief has 
no son, his soul is caught in a bag, which is fastened 
to an image made to represent the deceased ; the 

Above, p. 42 sqq. 


soul is then believed to pass into the image.^ 
Amongst the Takilis or Carrier Indians of North- 
West America, when a corpse is burned the priest 
pretends to catch the soul of the deceased in his hands, 
which he closes with many gesticulations. He then 
communicates the captured soul to the dead man's 
successor by throwing his hands towards and blowing 
upon him. The person to whom the soul is thus 
communicated takes the name and rank of the 
deceased. On the death of a chief the priest thus 
fills a responsible and influential position, for he may 
transmit the soul to whom he will, though, doubtless, 
he generally follows the regular line of succession.' 
Algonkin women who wished to become mothers 
flocked to the side of a dying person in the hope of 
receiving and being impregnated by the passing soul. 
Amongst the Seminoles of Florida when a woman 
died in childbed the infant was held over her face 
to receive her parting spirit.^ The Romans caught 
the breath of dying friends in their mouths, and so 
received into themselves the soul of the departed.* 
The same custom is said to be still practised in 
Lancashire.^ We may therefore fairly suppose that 
when the divine king or priest is put to death his 
spirit is believed to pass into his successor. 

1 Nieuwenliuisen en Rosenberg, - Ch. Wilkes, Narrative of the U.S. 

" Verslag omtient het eiland Nias," ExploriJig Expeditio7i {^-oViAoxv, \%6,^), 

in Verhaiidelingen van het Batav. iv. 453 ; U.S. Exploring Expedition, 

Genootschap van Kunsten en IVeten- Ethnography and Philology, by H. 

schappen, xxx. 85 ; Rosenberg, Der Hale, p. 203. 

Malayische Archipel, p. 160 ; Chatelin, 3 d_ g. Brinton, Myths of the Neru 

" Godsdienst en bijgeloof der Niassers," World, p. 2^0 sq. 

in Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-Land- * Servius on Virgil, Aen. iv. 685 ; 

en Volkenkunde,yiy.M\. \\zsq.; 'iwCiA^x- Cicero, In Verr. ii. 5, 45; K. F. 

mann, " Die Insel Nias und die Hermann, Griech. Privatalterthiimer, 

Mission daselbst," in AUgemeine Mis- ed. Blumner, p. 362 note i. 

sions-Zeitschrift, xi. 445. ^ Harland and Wilkinson, Lanca- 
shire Folk-lore, p. 7 sq. 


§ 2. — Killing the tree-spirit 

It remains to ask what light the custom of kilHng 
the divine king or priest sheds upon the subject of our 
inquiry. In the first chapter we saw reason to suppose 
that the King of the Wood was regarded as an incar- 
nation of the tree-spirit or of the spirit of vegetation, 
and that as such he would be endowed, in the belief of 
his worshippers, with a supernatural power of making 
the trees to bear fruit, the crops to grow, and so on. 
His life must therefore have been held very precious 
by his worshippers, and was probably hedged in 
by a system of elaborate precautions or taboos 
like those by which, in so many places, the life of 
the god-man has been guarded against the malignant 
influence of demons and sorcerers. But we have seen 
that the very value attached to the life of the man- 
god necessitates his violent death as the only means 
of preserving it from the inevitable decay of age. 
The same reasoning would apply to the King of the 
Wood ; he too had to be killed in order that the 
divine spirit, incarnate in him, might be transferred 
in unabated vigour to his successor. The rule that 
he held office till a stronger should slay him might 
be supposed to secure both the preservation of his 
divine life in full vigour and its transference to 
a suitable successor as soon as that vigour began 
to be impaired. For so long as he could maintain 
his position by the strong hand, it might be inferred 
that his natural force was not abated ; whereas his 
defeat and death at the hands of another proved 
that his strength was beginning to fail and that it 
was time his divine life should be lodg-ed in a less 


dilapidated tabernacle. This explanation of the rule 
that the King of the Wood had to be slain by his 
successor at least renders that rule perfectly intelligible. 
Moreover it is countenanced by the analogy of the 
Chitombe, upon whose life the existence of the world 
was supposed to hang, and who was therefore slain by 
his successor as soon as he showed signs of breaking 
up. Again, the terms on which in later times the 
King of Calicut held office are identical with those 
attached to the office of King of the Wood, except 
that whereas the former might be assailed by a 
candidate at any time, the King of Calicut might 
only be attacked once every twelve years. But as 
the leave granted to the King of Calicut to reign 
so long as he could defend himself against all 
comers was a mitigation of the old rule which set a 
fixed term to his life, so we may conjecture that the 
similar permission granted to the King of the Wood 
was a mitigation of an older custom of putting him 
to death at the end of a set period. In both cases the 
new rule gave to the god-man at least a chance for 
his life, which under the old rule was denied him ; and 
people probably reconciled themselves to the change 
by reflecting that so long as the god -man could 
maintain himself by the sword against all assaults, 
there was no reason to apprehend that the fatal 
decay had set in. 

The conjecture that the King of the Wood was 
formerly put to death at the expiry of a set term, 
without being allowed a chance for his life, will be 
confirmed if evidence can be adduced of a custom 
of periodically killing his counterparts, the humxan 
representatives of the tree-spirit, in Northern Europe. 
Now in point of fact such a custom has left unmis- 



takable traces of itself in the rural festivals of the 
peasantry. To take examples. 

In Lower Bavaria the Whitsuntide representative 
of the tree-spirit — the Pfingstl as he was called — was 
clad from top to toe in leaves and flowers. On his 
head he wore a high pointed cap, the ends of which 
rested on his shoulders, only two holes being left in it 
for his eyes. The cap was covered with water flowers 
and surmounted with a nosegay of peonies. The 
sleeves of his coat were also made of water-plants, and 
the rest of his body was enveloped in alder and hazel 
leaves. On each side of him marched a boy holding 
up one of the Pfingstrs arms. These two boys 
carried drawn swords, and so did most of the others 
who formed the procession. They stopped at every 
house where they hoped to receive a present ; and the 
people, in hiding, soused the leaf-clad boy with water. 
All rejoiced when he was well drenched. Finally he 
waded into the brook up to his middle ; whereupon 
one of the boys, standing on the bridge, pretended 
to cut off his head.^ At Wurmlingen in Swabia 
a score of young fellows dress themselves on Whit- 
Monday in white shirts and white trousers, with 
red scarves round their waists and swords hanging 
from the scarves. They ride on horse -back into 
the wood, led by two trumpeters blowing their 
trumpets. In the wood they cut down leafy oak 
branches, in which they envelop from head to foot 
him who was the last of their number to ride out of 
the village. His legs, however, are encased separ- 
ately, so that he may be able to mount his horse again. 
Further, they give him a long artificial neck, with an 

1 Fr. Panzer, Beitrag ziir deiitschen Mythologie, i. 235 sq. ; W. Mannhardt, 
BaziDikiiltus, p. 320 sq. 


artificial head and a false face on the top of it. Then 
a May-tree is cut, generally an aspen or beech about 
ten feet high ; and being decked with coloured 
handkerchiefs and ribbons it is entrusted to a special 
"May -bearer." The cavalcade then returns with 
music and song to the village. Amongst the person- 
ages who figure in the procession are a Moorish king 
with a sooty face and a crown on his head, a Dr. 
Iron-Beard, a corporal, and an executioner. They 
halt on the village green, and each of the characters 
makes a speech in rhyme. The executioner announces 
that the leaf-clad man has been condemned to death 
and cuts off his false head. Then the riders race to 
the May-tree, which has been set up a little way off 
The first man who succeeds in wrenching it from the 
ground as he gallops past keeps it with all its decora- 
tions. The ceremony is observed every second or 
third year.^ 

In Saxony and Thiiringen there is a Whitsuntide 
ceremony called "chasing the Wild Man out of the 
bush," or "fetching the Wild Man out of the wood." 
A young fellow is enveloped in leaves or moss and 
called the Wild Man. He hides in the wood and the 
other lads of the village go out to seek him. They 
find him, lead him captive out of the wood, and fire at 
him with blank muskets. He falls like dead to the 
ground, but a lad dressed as a doctor bleeds him, and 
he comes to life again. At this they rejoice and 
binding him fast on a waggon take him to the village, 
where they tell all the people how they have caught the 
Wild Man. At every house they receive a gift.^ In 

1 E. Meier, De^itsche Sagen, Sitten ^ E. Sommer, Sage7i, Miirchen und 

mid Gebrauche aus Sclnvaben, pp. 409- Gebnmche am Sachsen und Thiiringen, 

419; W. Mannhardt, Baiimkidtus, p. p. 154 .c^. ; W. Mannhardt, Baumkid- 

349 ^q. ins, p. 335 sq. 


the Erzgebirge the following custom was annually ob- 
served at Shrovetide about the beginning of the 
seventeenth century. Two men disguised as Wild 
Men, the one in brushwood and moss, the other 
in straw, were led about the streets, and at last taken 
to the market-place, where they were chased up and 
down, shot and stabbed. Before falling they reeled 
about with strange gestures and spirted blood on the 
people from bladders which they carried. When they 
were down, the huntsmen placed them on boards 
and carried them to the alehouse, the miners march- 
ing beside them and winding blasts on their min- 
ing tools as if they had taken a noble head of 
game.^ A very similar Shrovetide custom is still 
observed in the neighbourhood of Schluckenau 
(Bohemia). A man dressed up as a Wild Man is 
chased through several streets till he comes to a narrow 
lane across which a cord is stretched. He stumbles 
over the cord and, falling to the ground, is overtaken 
and caught by his pursuers. The executioner runs up 
and stabs with his sword a bladder filled with blood 
which the Wild Man wears round his body ; so the 
Wild Man dies, while a stream of blood reddens the 
ground. Next day a straw-man, made up to look like 
the Wild Man, is placed on a litter, and, accompanied 
by a great crowd, is taken to a pool into which it is 
thrown by the executioner. The ceremony is called 
"burying the Carnival."" 

In Semic (Bohemia) the custom of beheading the 
King is observed on Whit -Monday. A troop of 
young people disguise themselves ; each is girt with 
a eirdle of bark and carries a wooden sword and a 

W. Mannhardt, ^a«w/&/////«,p. 336. enda- aiis Bohmen, p. 61 ; W. Mann- 
Reinsberg-Dliringsfeld, Fcst-Kal- haidt, Bawiikitltus, p. 336 sq. 


trumpet of willow -bark. The King wears a robe 
of tree-bark adorned with flowers, on his head is a 
crown of bark decked with flowers and branches, 
his feet are wound about with ferns, a mask hides 
his face, and for a sceptre he has a hawthorn switch 
in his hand, A lad leads him through the vil- 
lage by a rope fastened to his foot, while the rest 
dance about, blow their trumpets, and whistle. In 
every farmhouse the King is chased round the room, 
and one of the troop, amid much noise and outcry, 
strikes with his sword a blow on the King's robe of 
bark till it rings again. Then a gratuity is demanded.^ 
The ceremony of decapitation, which is here somewhat 
slurred over, is carried out with a greater semblance of 
reality in other parts of Bohemia. Thus in some vil- 
lages of the Koniggratz district on Whit-Monday the 
girls assemble under one lime-tree and the young men 
under another, all dressed in their best and tricked out 
with ribbons. The young men twine a garland for the 
Queen and the girls for the King. When they have 
chosen the King and Queen they all go in procession, 
two and two, to the alehouse, from the balcony of 
which the crier proclaims the names of the King and 
Queen. Both are then invested with the insignia of 
their dignity and are crowned with the garlands, 
while the music plays up. Then some one gets on 
a bench and accuses the King of various offences, 
such as ill-treating the cattle. The King appeals to 
witnesses and a trial ensues, at the close of which the 
judge, who carries a white wand as his badge of ofiice, 
pronounces a verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty." If 
the verdict is "guilty" the judge breaks his wand, the 

1 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Fest-Kalender aits Bohmcn, p. 263 ; W. Mann- 
hard t, Baumktiltus, p. 343. 


King kneels on a white cloth, all heads are bared, and 
a soldier sets three or four hats, one above the other, 
on the King's head. The judge then pronounces the 
word "guilty" thrice In a loud voice, and orders the 
crier to behead the King. The crier obeys by striking 
off the King's hats with his wooden sword. ^ 

But perhaps, for our purpose, the most instructive of 
these mimic executions is the following Bohemian one, 
which has been in part described already.^ In some 
places of the Pilsen district (Bohemia) on Whit-Monday 
the King is dressed in bark, ornamented with flowers 
and ribbons ; he wears a crown of gilt paper and rides 
a horse, which is also decked with flowers. Attended 
by a judge, an executioner and other characters, and 
followed by a train of soldiers, all mounted, he rides to 
the village square, where a hut or arbour of green 
boughs has been erected under the May-trees, which 
are firs, freshly cut, peeled to the top, and dressed with 
flowers and ribbons. After the dames and maidens of 
the village have been criticised and a frog beheaded, 
in the way already described, the cavalcade rides to a 
place previously determined upon, in a straight, broad 
street. Here they draw up in two lines and the King 
takes to flight. He is given a short start and rides off 
at full speed, pursued by the whole troop. If they 
fail to catch him he remains King for another year, 
and his companions must pay his score at the alehouse 
in the evening. But if they overtake and catch him 
he is scourged with hazel rods or beaten with the 
wooden swords and compelled to dismount. Then the 
executioner asks, "Shall I behead this King.-^" The 
answer is given, "Behead him;" the executioner 

1 Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, Fcst-Kalendcr aits Bolunen, p. 269 w. 

2 See above, p. 92 sq. 


brandishes his axe, and with the words, " One, two, 
three, let the King headless be ! " he strikes off the 
King's crown. Amid the loud cries of the bystanders 
the King sinks to the ground ; then he is laid on a bier 
and carried to the nearest farmhouse.^ 

In the personages who are thus slain in mimicry it 
is impossible not to recognise representatives of the 
tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation, as he is supposed to 
manifest himself in spring. The bark, leaves, and 
flowers in which the actors are dressed, and the season 
of the year at which they appear, show that they belong 
to the same class as the Grass King, King of the May, 
Jack-in-the-Green, and other representatives of the 
vernal spirit of vegetation which we examined in the 
first chapter. As if to remove any possible doubt on 
this head, we find that in two cases " these slain men 
are brought into direct connection with May-trees, 
which are (as we have seen) the impersonal, as the 
May King, Grass King, etc., are the personal represen- 
tatives of the tree-spirit. The drenching of the PJingstl 
with water and his wading up to the middle into the 
brook are, therefore, no doubt rain -charms like those 
which have been already described.^ 

But if these personages represent, as they certainly 
do, the spirit of vegetation in spring, the question 
arises. Why kill them ? What is the object of slay- 
ing the spirit of vegetation at any time and above 
all in spring, when his services are most wanted "^ 
The only answer to this question seems to be given 
in the explanation already proposed of the custom 
of killing the divine king or priest. The divine 
life, incarnate in a material and mortal body, is liable 

1 Reinsbeig-Duringsfeld, Fest-Kalender aus Bohmen, p. 264 .fi/. ; W. Mann- 
hardt, Batimkultus, p. 353 sq. 2 ggg pp^ 243, 246. ^ See p. 15 sqq. 


to be tainted and corrupted by the weakness of 
the frail medium in which it is for a time enshrined ; 
and if it is to be saved from the increasing enfeeble- 
ment which it must necessarily share with its human 
incarnation as he advances in years, it must be detached 
from him before, or at least as soon as, he exhibits 
signs of decay, in order to be transferred to a vigorous 
successor. This is done by killing the old representa- 
tive of the god and conveying the divine spirit from 
him to a new incarnation. The killing of the god, 
that is, of his human incarnation, is, therefore, only a 
necessary step to his revival or resurrection in a better 
form. Far from being an extinction of the divine 
spirit, it is only the beginning of a purer and stronger 
manifestation of it. If this explanation holds good of 
the custom of killing divine kings and priests in 
general, it is still more obviously applicable to the 
custom of annually killing the representative of the 
tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation in spring. For the 
decay of vegetation in winter is readily interpreted by 
primitive man as an enfeeblement of the spirit of vege- 
tation ; the spirit has (he thinks) grown old and weak 
and must therefore be renovated by being slain and 
brought to life in a younger and fresher form. Thus the 
killing of the representative of the tree-spirit in spring is 
regarded as a means to promote and quicken the 
growth of vegetation. For the killing of the tree-spirit 
is associated always (we must suppose) implicitly, and 
sometimes explicitly also, with a revival or resurrection 
of him in a more youthful and vigorous form. Thus 
in the Saxon and Thiiringen custom, after the Wild 
Man has been shot he is brought to life again by a 
doctor ; ^ and in the Wurmlingen ceremony there 

1 See p. 243. 


figures a Dr. Iron- Beard, who probably once played 
a similar part ; certainly in another spring ceremony 
(to be described presently) Dr. Iron- Beard pretends 
to restore a dead man to life. But of this revival or 
resurrection of the god we shall have more to say 

The points of similarity between these North 
European personages and the subject of our inquiry 
— the King of the Wood or priest of Nemi — are 
sufficiently striking. In these northern maskers we see 
kings, whose dress of bark and leaves, along with the 
hut of green boughs and the fir-trees under which they 
hold their court, proclaim them unmistakably as, like 
their Italian counterpart. Kings of the Wood. Like 
him they die a violent death ; but like him they may 
escape from it for a time by their bodily strength and 
agility ; for in several of these northern customs the 
flight and pursuit of the king is a prominent part of the 
ceremony, and in one case at least if the king can out- 
run his pursuers he retains his life and his office for 
another year. In this last case, in fact, the king holds 
office on condition of running for his life once a year, 
just as the King of Calicut in later times held office on 
condition of defending his life against all comers once 
every twelve years, and just as the priest of Nemi held 
office on condition of defending himself against any 
assault at any time. In all these cases the life of the 
god-man is prolonged on condition of showing, in a 
severe physical contest of fight or flight, that his bodily 
strength is not decayed, and that, therefore, the violent 
death, which sooner or later is inevitable, may for the 
present be postponed. With regard to flight it is 
noticeable that flight figured conspicuously both in the 
legend and the practice of the King of the Wood. He 


had to be a runaway slave {fngitizms) in memory of the 
flight of Orestes, the traditional founder of the worship ; 
hence the Kings of the Wood are described by an 
ancient writer as ' ' both strong of hand and fleet of foot. " ^ 
Perhaps if we knew the ritual of the Arician grove fully 
we might find that the king was allowed a chance for 
his life by flight, like his Bohemian brother. We may 
conjecture that the annual flight of the priestly king at 
Rome {regifugmm) '^ was at first a flight of the same 
kind ; in other words, that he was originally one of those 
divine kings who are either put to death after a fixed 
period or allowed to prove by the strong hand or the 
fleet foot that their divinity is vigorous and unim- 
paired. One more point of resemblance may be 
noted between the Italian King of the Wood and his 
northern counterparts. In Saxony and Thilringen the 
representative of the tree-spirit, after being killed, is 
brought to life again by a doctor. This is exactly what 
legend affirmed to have happened to the first King of 
the Wood at Nemi, Hippolytus or Virbius, who after 
he had been killed by his horses was restored to life 
by the physician Aesculapius.^ Such a legend tallies 
well with the theory that the slaying of the King of the 
Wood was only a step to his revival or resurrection in 
his successor. 

It has been assumed that the mock killino^ of the 


Wild Man and of the King in North European folk- 
custom is a modern substitute for an ancient custom of 
killing them in earnest. Those who best know the 
tenacity of life possessed by folk-custom and its tend- 
ency, with the growth of civilisation, to dwindle from 
solemn ritual into mere pageant and pastime, will be 

1 Above, p. 4. - Marquardt, Rdmische Staatsverivalttiug, iii.- 323 sq. 

^ See above, p. 6. 


least likely to question the truth of this assumption. 
That human sacrifices were commonly offered by the 
ancestors of the civilised races of North Europe 
(Celts, Teutons, and Slavs) is certain/ It is not, there- 
fore, surprising that the modern peasant should do in 
mimicry what his forefathers did in reality. We know 
as a matter of fact that in other parts of the world mock 
human sacrifices have been substituted for real ones. 
Thus Captain Bourke was informed by an old chief 
that the Indians of Arizona used to offer human sacri- 
fices at the Feast of Fire when the days are shortest. 
The victim had his throat cut, his breast opened, and his 
heart taken out by one of the priests. This custom 
was abolished by the Mexicans, but for a long time 
afterwards a modified form of it was secretly observed 
as follows. The victim, generally a young man, had 
his throat cut, and blood was allowed to flow freely; 
but the medicine -men sprinkled "medicine" on the 
gash, which soon healed up, and the man recovered." 
So in the ritual of Artemis at Halae in Attica, a man's 
throat was cut and the blood allowed to gush out, but 
he was not killed.^ At the funeral of a chief in Nias 
slaves are sacrificed ; a little of their hair is cut off, and 
then they are beheaded. The victims are generally 
purchased for the purpose, and their number is pro- 
portioned to the wealth and power of the deceased. 
But if the number required is excessively great or can- 
not be procured, some of the chief's own slaves under- 
go a sham sacrifice. They are told, and believe, that 

1 Caesar, Bell. Gall. vi. 16; Adam - J. G. Bourke, Snake Dance of the 

of Bremen, Desc7-ipt. Ittsul. Aqjiil. c. 27 ; Aloqitis of Arizona, p. 196 sq. 
Olaus Magnus, iii. 6; Grimm, Deutsche 

Mytkologie,'^i.2iSsqq.;Mox\&,Geschichte 3 Euripides, Iphig. in Taiir. 1458 

des nordischen IIeidenthtiiiis,\. 6<), 119, sqq. 
120, 149, 187 sq. 


they are about to be decapitated ; their heads are 
placed on a log and their necks struck with the back 
of a sword. The fright drives some of them crazy. ^ 
When a Hindoo has killed or ill-treated an ape, a 
bird of prey of a certain kind, or a cobra capella, in 
the presence of the worshippers of Vishnu, he must 
expiate his offence by the pretended sacrifice and 
resurrection of a human being. An incision is made 
in the victim's arm, the blood flows, he grows faint, 
falls, and feigns to die. Afterwards he is brought to 
life by being sprinkled with blood drawn from the 
thigh of a worshipper of Vishnu. The crowd of spec- 
tators is fully convinced of the reality of this simu- 
lated death and resurrection. - Sometimes the mock 
sacrifice is carried out, not on a living person but on 
an image. Thus an Indian law-book, the Calica 
Puran, prescribes that when the sacrifice of lions, 
tigers, or human beings is required, an image of a 
lion, tiger, or man shall be made with butter, paste, or 
barley meal, and sacrificed instead.^ Some of the 
Gonds of India formerly offered human sacrifices ; they 
now sacrifice straw-men instead."^ Colonel Dalton 
was told that in some of their villages the Bhagats 
(Hindooised Oraons) "annually make an image of a 
man in wood, put clothes and ornaments on it, and 
present it before the altar of a Mahadeo. The person 
who officiates as priest on the occasion says : ' O, 
Mahadeo, we sacrifice this man to you according to 
ancient customs. Give us rain in due season, and a 

1 Nieuwenhuisen en Rosenberg," Ver- ^ "The Rudhiradhyaya, or san- 

slag omtrent het eiland Nias," in Ve7-- guinary chapter," translated from the 

handeliiigcn van het Batav. Genootsch. Calica Pitran by W. C. Blaquiere, in 

vanKunstenenWetenschappm,y.y.\.\2,. Asiatick Researches, v. 376 (8vo. ed. 

'^ ^.K.Tyx^ox^Moeiirs, Institutions et London, 1807). 

Ceremonies desPeuples de V Inde^x. 1 5 1 sq. * Dalton, Etlinolog)' of Bengal, p. 28 1. 



plentiful harvest.' Then with one stroke of the axe 
the head of the image is struck off, and the body is 
removed and buried."^ 

§ 3. — Carrying out Death 

Thus far I have offered an explanation of the 
rule which required that the priest of Nemi should be 
slain by his successor. The explanation claims to be 
no more than probable ; our scanty knowledge of the 
custom and of its history forbids it to be more. But 
its probability will be augmented in proportion to 
the extent to which the motives and modes of thought 
which it assumes can be proved to have operated in 
primitive society. Hitherto the god with whose 
death and resurrection we have been chiefly con- 
cerned has been the tree-god. Tree -worship may 
perhaps be regarded (though this is a conjecture) 
as occupying an intermediate place in the history 
of religion, between the religion of the hunter and 
shepherd on the one side, whose gods are mostly 
animals, and the religion of the husbandman on the 
other hand, in whose worship the cultivated plants 
play a leading part. If then I can show that the custom 
of killing the god and the belief in his resurrection ori- 
ginated, or at least existed, in the hunting and pastoral 
stage of society, when the slain god was an animal, and 
survived into the agricultural stage, when the slain god 
was the corn or a human being representing the corn, 
the probability of my explanation will have been con- 
siderably increased. This I shall attempt to do in 
the remainder of this chapter, in the course of which 

1 Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 25 S sq. 


I hope to clear up some obscurities which still 
remain, and to answer some objections which may 
have suggested themselves to the reader. 

We start from the point at which we left off — 
the spring customs of European peasantry. Besides 
the ceremonies already described there are two kin- 
dred sets of observances in which the simulated death 
of a divine or supernatural being is a leading feature. 
These observances are commonly known as " Burying 
the Carnival," and " Driving or carrying out Death." 
Both customs are chiefly practised, or at least best 
known, on German and Slavonic ground. The former 
custom is observed on the last day of the Carnival, 
namely. Shrove Tuesday [Fastiiac/d), or on the first 
day of Lent, namely, Ash Wednesday. The latter 
custom is commonly observed on the Fourth Sunday 
in Lent, which hence gets the name of Dead Sunday 
( Todteitsonntag) ; but in some places it is observed a 
week earlier ; in others again, as amongst the Czechs 
of Bohemia, a week later. Originally the date of the 
celebration of the '' Carrying out Death " appears not 
to have been fixed, but to have depended on the ap- 
pearance of the first swallow or of some other natural 
phenomenon.^ A Bohemian form of the custom of 
" Burying the Carnival " has been already described.- 
The following Swabian form is obviously similar. 
In the neighbourhood of Tubingen on Shrove Tues- 
day a straw-man, called the Shrovetide Bear, is made 
up ; he is dressed in a pair of old trousers, and a 

1 Grimm, Deutsche Myfhologie,^ ii. as Mid-Lent, because it falls in the 

64s ; K. Haupt, Sagenbnch der Lan- middle of Lent, or as Laetare from the 

sitz, ii. 58; Reinsberg- DUringsfeld, first word of the liturgy for the day. 

Fest - Kalender aiis Bohmen, p. 86 sq. ; In the Roman Calendar it is the Sun- 

id., Das festliche Jahr, p. 77 sq. The day of the Rose, Domeiiica rosae. 

Fourth Sunday in Lent is also known 2 See p. 244. 


fresh black-pudding or two squirts filled with blood are 
inserted in his neck. After a formal condemnation he 
is beheaded, laid in a coffin, and on Ash Wednesday 
is buried in the churchyard. This is called " Burying 
the Carnival" i^'dic Fastnacht vergrabeji ").^ Amongst 
some of the Saxons of Transylvania the Carnival is 
hung. Thus at Braller on Ash Wednesday or Shrove 
Tuesday two white and two chestnut horses draw a 
sledge on which is placed a straw-man swathed in a 
white cloth ; beside him is a cart-wheel which is kept 
turning round. Two lads disguised as old men follow 
the sledge lamenting. The rest of the village lads, 
mounted on horseback and decked with ribbons, accom- 
pany the procession, which is headed by two girls 
crowned with evero-reen and drawn in a wagfo-on or 
sledge. A trial is held under a tree, at which lads 
disguised as soldiers pronounce sentence of death. 
The two old men try to rescue the straw-man and to 
fly with him, but to no purpose ; he is caught by the 
two mrls and handed over to the executioner, who hanofs 
him on a tree. In vain the old men try to climb up 
the tree and take him down ; they always tumble down, 
and at last in despair they throw themselves on the 
ground and weep and howl for the hanged man. An 
official then makes a speech in which he declares 
that the Carnival was condemned to death because 
he had done them harm, by wearing out their 
shoes and making them tired and sleepy." At the 
" Burial of Carnival " in Lechrain, a man dressed as a 
woman in black clothes is carried on a litter or bier by 
four men ; he is lamented over by men disguised as 

1 E. Meier, Deutsche Sagcu, Sitten - J. Haltrich, Ziir Volkskuade der 

iind Gebraiiche ans Schivabeii, p. 371. SiebciihiiTger Saclisen (Wien, 1885), p. 

284 sq. 


women in black clothes, then thrown down before 
the village dung-heap, drenched with water, buried in 
the dung-heap, and covered with straw.^ Similarly in 
Schorzingen, near Schomberg, the " Carnival (Shrove- 
tide) Fool " was carried all about the village on a bier, 
preceded by a man dressed in white, and followed by 
a devil who was dressed in black and carried chains, 
which he clanked. One of the train collected gifts. 
After the procession the Fool was buried under 
straw and dung.'- In Rottweil the " Carnival Fool " 
is made drunk on Ash Wednesday and buried under 
straw amid loud lamentation.^ In Wurmlingen the 
Fool is represented by a young fellow enveloped in 
straw, who is led about the village by a rope as 
a " Bear " on Shrove Tuesday and the preceding 
day. He dances to the flute. Then on Ash Wed- 
nesday a straw -man is made, placed on a trough, 
carried out of the village to the sound of drums and 
mournful music, and buried in a field.'* In Altdorf and 
Weingarten on Ash Wednesday the Fool, represented 
by a straw-man, is carried about and then thrown into 
the water to the accompaniment of melancholy music. 
In other villages of Swabia the part of fool is played 
by a live person, who is thrown into the water after 
being carried about in procession.^ At Balwe, in 
Westphalia, a straw-man is made on Shrove Tuesday 
and thrown into the river amid rejoicings. This is 
called, as usual, "Burying the Carnival."'^ On the 
evening of Shrove Tuesday, the Esthonians make a 

1 Leoprechting, Aus dem Lechraijt, ^ E. Meier, op. cit. p. 372. 
p. 162 sqq. ; Mannhardt, Baumkultus, 

p. 411. 4 E. Meier, ^/. «?. p. 373. 

2 E. Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitten :, £, Meier, op. cit. pp. 373, 374. 
nnd Gebriiiic/ie aus Schwabcn p. 374; 

cp.Birlinger, VolksthiinilichesaiisSc/riva- ^ A. Kuhn, Sagen, Gcbriiuche jind 

ben, ii. 55. Marchcn aus Westfalen, ii. 130. 


Straw figure called metsik or " wood-spirit ;" one year 
it is dressed with a man's coat and hat, next year with 
a hood and a petticoat. This figure is stuck on a long 
pole, carried across the boundary of the village with 
Joud cries of joy, and fastened to the top of a tree in 
the wood. The ceremony is believed to be a protec- 
tion against all kinds of misfortune.^ Sometimes the 
resurrection of the pretended dead person is enacted. 
Thus, in some parts of Swabia, on Shrove Tuesday 
Dr. Iron-Beard professes to bleed a sick man, who 
thereupon falls as dead to the ground ; but the doctor 
at last restores him to life by blowing air into him 
through a tube."^ In the Harz mountains, when Car- 
nival is over, a man is laid on a baking- trough and 
carried with dirges to a grave ; but in the grave, in- 
stead of the man, a glass of brandy is placed. A 
speech is delivered and then the people return to the 
village-green or meeting-place, where they smoke the 
long clay pipes which are distributed at funerals. On 
the morning of Shrove Tuesday in the following year 
the brandy is dug up and the festival begins by every 
one tasting the brandy which, as the phrase goes, has 
come to life again. ^ 

The ceremony of " Carrying out Death " presents 
much the same features as "Burying the Carnival;" 
except that the figure of Death is oftener drowned 
or burned than buried, and that the carrying out of 
Death is generally followed by a ceremony, or at least 
accompanied by a profession, of bringing in Summer, 
Spring, or Life. Thus, in some villages of Thiiringen 
on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the children used to 
carry a puppet of birchen twigs through the village, 

1 F.J. ^\&AQ.va2,-nxi, Aus dem inner en 2 jr_ Meier, op. cit. p. 374. 

itnd dzisseren Leben der Ehsten, p. 353. 3 h. Prohle, Harzbilder, p. 54. 



and then threw it into a pool, while they sang, " We 
carry the old Death out behind the herdsman's old 
house ; we have got Summer, and Kroden's (?) power 
is destroyed."^ In one village of Thiiringen (Dob- 
schwitz near Gera), the ceremony of " Driving out 
Death " is still annually observed on the ist of March. 
The young people make up a figure of straw or the 
like materials, dress it in old clothes which they have 
begged from the houses in the village, and carry it out 
and throw it into the river. On returning to the 
village they announce the fact to the people, and 
receive eggs and other victuals as a reward. In other 
villages of Thiiringen, in which the population was 
originally Slavonic, the carrying out of the puppet 
is accompanied with the singing of a song, which 
begins, " Now we carry Death out of the village and 
Spring into the village." " In Bohemia the children 
go out with a straw-man, representing Death, to the 
end of the village, where they burn it, singing — 

" Now carry we Death out of the village, 
The new Summer into the village. 
Welcome dear Summer, 
Green little corn !"•' 

At Tabor (Bohemia) the figure of Death is carried 
out of the town and flung from a high rock into the 
water, while they sing — 

" Death swims on the water, 
Summer will soon be here, 
We carried Death away for you. 
We brought the Summer. 
And do thou, O holy Marketa, 
Give us a good year 
For wheat and for rye." * 

1 Aug. Witzschel, Sas;ci!, Sittcn ^ Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie,'^ ii. 

iind Gebrciticke aits Thiiringen, p. 642. 
193. 4 Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, Test - Kal- 

- Witzschel, op. cit. p. 199. ender aus Bohmen, p. 90 sq. 


In other parts of Bohemia they carry Death to the 
end of the village, singing — 

" We carry Death out of the village, 
And the New Year into the village. 
Dear Spring, we bid you welcome, 
Green grass, we bid you welcome." 

Behind the village they erect a pyre, on which they 
burn the straw figure, reviling and scoffing at it the 
while. Then they return, singing — 

" We have carried away Death, 
And brought Life back. 
He has taken up his quarters in the village. 
Therefore sing joyous songs." ^ 

At Nurnberg, girls of seven to eighteen years of 
age, dressed in their best, carry through the streets 
a little open coffin in which is a doll, hidden under a 
shroud. Others carry a beech branch, with an apple 
fastened to it for a head, in an open box. They sing, 
"We carry Death into the water, it is well," or, "We 
carry Death into the water, carry him in and out 
again." - 

The effigy of Death is often regarded with fear 
and treated with marks of hatred and contempt. In 
Lusatia the figure is sometimes made to look in at the 
window of a house, and it is believed that some one 
in the house will die within the year unless his life 
is redeemed by the payment of money.^ Again, after 
throwing the effigy away, the bearers sometimes run 
home lest Death should follow them ; and if one 
of them falls in running, it is believed that he will 
die within the year.'* At Chrudim, in Bohemia, the 

1 Reinsberg - Diiringsfeld, op. cit. 3 Grimm, op. cit. ii. 644 ; K. 
p. 91. Haupt, Sdgenbiuh der Laitsitz, ii. 

2 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie,^ ii. 55. 
6igsq.;'^i3Lm-\h.3iXii,Bat{mkuliits,'p./^i2. * Grimm, op. cit. ii. 640, 643. 


figure of Death is made out of a cross, with a head 
and mask stuck at the top, and a shirt stretched out on 
it. On the Fifth Sunday in Lent the boys take this 
effigy to the nearest brook or pool, and standing in a 
Hne throw it into the water. Then they all plunge in 
after it ; but as soon as it is caught no one more may 
enter the water. The boy who did not enter the 
water or entered it last will die within the year, and 
he is obliged to carry the Death back to the village. 
The effigy is then burned.^ On the other hand it is 
believed that no one will die within the year in the 
house out of which the figure of Death has been 
carried ; '" and the village out of which Death has 
been driven is sometimes supposed to be protected 
against sickness and plague.^ In some villages of 
Austrian Silesia on the Saturday before Dead Sunday 
an effigy is made of old clothes, hay, and straw, for 
the purpose of driving Death out of the village. On 
Sunday the people, armed with sticks and straps, 
assemble before the house where the figure is lodged. 
Four lads then draw the effigy by cords through the 
village amid exultant shouts, while all the others beat 
it with their sticks and straps. On reaching a field 
which belongs to a neighbouring village they lay down 
the figure, cudgel it soundly, and scatter the fragments 
over the field. The people believe that the village 
from which Death has been thus carried out will be 
safe from any infectious disease for the whole year.^ 
In Slavonia the figure of Death is cudgelled and then 

1 Vernalecken, Alythen tind Brimche '^ J. A. E. Kohler, Volksbraiich, 
des Volkes in Oesterreich, p. 294 sq. ; Aberglaiihen, Sagen tind andre alte 
Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Fest - Kalender Ueberlieferimgen im Voigtlande, p. 
aiis Bohmen, p. 90. I/I- 

2 Grimm, Deutsche JMythologie,^ ii. ^ Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Das fest- 
640. licJie Jalu; p. 80. 


rent in two.^ In Poland the effigy, made of hemp and 
straw, is flung into a pool or swamp with the words, 
" The devil take thee." - 

The custom of " sawing the Old Woman," which is 
or used to be observed in Italy and Spain on the Fourth 
Sunday in Lent, is doubtless, as Grimm supposes, 
merely another form of the custom of "carrying out 
Death." A great hideous figure representing the oldest 
woman of the village was dragged out and sawn in 
two, amid a prodigious noise made with cow-bells, pots 
and pans, etc.^ In Palermo the ceremony used to be 
still more realistic. At Mid- Lent an old woman was 
drawn through the streets on a cart, attended by two 
men dressed in the costume of the Conipagnia de 
Bianchi, a society or religious order whose function it 
was to attend and console prisoners condemned to 
death. A scaffold was erected in a public square ; the 
old woman mounted it, and two mock executioners 
proceeded, amid a storm of huzzas and hand-clapping, 
to saw through her neck or rather through a bladder 
of blood which had been previously fitted to her neck. 
The blood gushed out and the old woman pretended 
to swoon and die. The last of these mock executions 
took place in 1737.^ At Florence, during the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, the Old Woman was repre- 
sented by a figure stufi"ed with walnuts and dried figs 
and fastened to the top of a ladder. At Mid-Lent this 
effigy was sawn through the middle under the Loggie 
of the Mercato Nuovo, and as the dried fruits tumbled 
out they were scrambled for by the crowd. A trace of 
the custom is still to be seen in the practice, observed 

1 Ralston, Songs of the Russian in Rheinisches Miiseiuii, N. F. xxx. 
People, p. 211. 2 /^_ p_ 210. (1875) p. 191 sq. 

2 Grimm, Deutsche JMyfliologie,'^ ii. ■* G. Pitre, Spetfacoli e feste popolari 
652; H. Usener, " Italische Mythen, " siciliane (Palermo, 1881), p. 207 sq. 


by urchins, of secretly pinning paper ladders to the 
shoulders of women of the lower classes who happen 
to show themselves in the streets on the morning of 
Mid-Lent/ A similar custom is observed by urchins 
in Rome ; and at Naples on the ist of April boys cut 
strips of cloth into the shape of saws, smear them with 
gypsum, and strike passers-by with their "saws" on 
the back, thus imprinting the figure of a saw upon their 
clothes.^ At Montalto in Calabria boys go about at 
Mid- Lent with little saws made of cane and jeer at old 
people, who therefore generally stay indoors on that 
day. The Calabrian women meet together at this 
time and feast on figs, chestnuts, honey, etc. ; this they 
call "sawing the Old Woman" — a reminiscence prob- 
ably of a custom like the old Florentine one.^ 

In Barcelona on the day in question boys run about 
the streets, some with saws, others with billets of wood, 
others again with cloths in which they collect gratuities. 
They sing a song in which it is said that they are look- 
ing for the oldest woman of the city for the purpose of 
sawing her in two in honour of Mid-Lent ; at last, 
pretending to have found her, they saw something in 
two and burn it. A like custom is found amonp;st the 
South Slavs. In Lent the Croats tell their children 
that at noon an old woman is being sawn in two outside 
the gates ; and in Carniola also the saying is current 
that at Mid-Lent an old woman is taken out of the 
village and sawn in two. The North Slavonian ex- 
pression for keeping Mid- Lent is bdbtt 7'ezati, that is, 
"sawing the Old Wife."^ 

1 A7xJiivio per lo studio delle tradi- popolari della Calabria citeriore (Co- 

zioni popolari, iv. (1885) p. 294 sq. senza, 1884), p. 43 sq. 

o .-, -- ., * Grimm, Deutsche MytholoneJ^ ii. 

- H. Usener, op. czf. p. 193. ^52 ; H. Usener, " Italische Mythen," 

3 Vincenzo Dorsa, La tradizione in Rheinisches JMiiseiim, N. F. xxx. 

greco-latina negli it si e nelle credenze 1875) p. 191 sq. 


In the preceding' ceremonies the return of Spring, 
Summer, or Life, as a sequel to the expulsion of Death, 
is only implied or at most announced. In the following 
ceremonies it is plainly enacted. In some parts of 
Bohemia the effigy of Death is buried at sunset ; then 
the girls go out into the wood and cut down a young 
tree with a green crown, hang a doll dressed as a 
woman on it, deck the whole with green, red, and 
white ribbons, and march in procession with their 
Lito (Summer) into the village, collecting gifts and 
singing — 

"We carried Death out of the village. 
We are carrying Summer into the village." ^ 

In many Silesian villages the figure of Death, after 
being treated with respect, is stripped of its clothes 
and flung with curses into the w^ater, or torn in pieces 
in a field. Then a fir-tree adorned with ribbons, 
coloured egg-shells, and motley bits of cloth, is carried 
through the streets by boys who collect pennies and 

" We have carried Death out, 
We are bringing the dear Summer back, 
The Summer and the May 
And all the flowers gay."^ 

At Eisenach on the Fourth Sunday in Lent young 
people used to fasten a straw-man, representing Death, 
to a wheel, which they trundled to the top of a hill. 
Then setting fire to the figure they allowed it and the 
wheel to roll downhill. Next they cut a tall fir-tree, 
tricked it out with ribbons, and set it up in the plain. 
The men then climbed the tree to fetch down the 

1 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, /^?j-AAa/^«- 2 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Das fest- 

der aits Bohnien, p. 89 sq. ; W. Mann- Uche Jahr, p. 82 ; Philo vom Walde, 

hardt, Bautnktiltus, p. 156. This Schlesien in Sage zind Branch (N.D. 

custom has been already referred to. preface dated 1883), p. 122. 
See p. 82. 


ribbons/ In Upper Lusatia the figure of Death, made 
of straw and rags, is dressed in a veil furnished by the 
last bride and a shirt furnished by the house in which 
the last death occurred. Thus arrayed the figure is 
stuck on the end of a long pole and carried at full speed 
by the tallest and strongest girl, while the rest pelt the 
effigy with sticks and stones. Whoever hits it will be 
sure to live through the year. In this way Death is 
carried out of the village and thrown into the water or 
over the boundary of the next village. On their way 
home each one breaks a green branch and carries it 
gaily with him till he reaches the village, when he 
throws it away. Sometimes the young people of the 
next village, upon whose land the figure has been 
thrown, run after them and hurl it back, not wishing 
to have Death among them. Hence the two parties 
occasionally come to blows." 

In these cases Death is represented by the puppet 
which is thrown away. Summer or Life by the branches 
or trees which are brought back. But sometimes a 
new potency of life seems to be attributed to the image 
of Death itself, and by a kind of resurrection it becomes 
the instrument of the general revival. Thus in some 
parts of Lusatia women alone are concerned in carry- 
ing out Death, and suffer no male to meddle with it. 
Attired in mourning, which they wear the whole day, 
they make a puppet of straw, clothe it in a white shirt, 
and give it a broom in one hand and a scythe in the 
other. Singing songs and pursued by urchins throw- 
ing stones, they carry the puppet to the village bound- 
ary, where they tear it in pieces. Then they cut down 

1 Witzschel, Sagen, Silten itnd 643 sq. ; K. Haupt, Sagenbuch der 
Gebrduche atcs Thiiringen, p. 192 sq. Lausitz, ii. 54 sq. ; Mannhardt, Baiiin- 

kultiis, p. 412 sq. ; Ralston, Songs of 

2 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologic,^ ii. the Russian People, p. 211. 


a fine tree, hang the shirt on it, and carry it home 
sing'ino'/ On the Feast of Ascension the Saxons of a 
village near Hermanstadt (Transylvania) observe the 
ceremony of "carrying out Death" in the following 
manner. After forenoon church all the school-girls 
repair to the house of one of their number, and 
there dress up the Death. This is done by tying a 
threshed-out corn-sheaf into the rough semblance of a 
head and body, while the arms are simulated by a 
broomstick stuck horizontally. The figure is dressed 
in the Sunday clothes of a village matron. It is then 
displayed at the window that all people may see it on 
their way to afternoon church. As soon as vespers 
are over the girls seize the effigy and, singing a hymn, 
carry it in procession round the village. Boys are 
excluded from the procession. After the procession 
has traversed the village from end to end, the figure is 
taken to another house and stripped of its attire ; the 
naked straw bundle is then thrown out of the window 
to the boys, who carry it off and fling it into the 
nearest stream. This is the first act of the drama. 
In the second, one of the girls is solemnly invested 
with the clothes and ornaments previously worn by 
the figure of Death, and, like it, is led in procession 
round the village to the singing of the same hymns 
as before. The ceremony ends with a feast at 
the house of the girl who acted the chief part ; as 
before, the boys are excluded. " According to popular 
belief, it is allowed to eat fruit only after this day, as 
now the ' Death,' that is, the unwholesomeness — has 
been expelled from them. Also the river in which the 
Death has been drowned may now be considered fit for 
public bathing. If this ceremony be neglected in the 

1 Grimm, op. cit. ii. 644 ; K. Haupt, op. cit. ii. 55. 


village where it is customary, such neglect is supposed 
to entail death to one of the young people, or loss of 
virtue to a girl." ^ 

In the first of these two ceremonies the tree which 
is brouQfht home after the destruction of the fio^ure of 
Death is plainly equivalent to the trees or branches 
which, in the preceding customs, were brought back 
as representatives of Summer or Life, after Death had 
been thrown away or destroyed. But the transference 
of the shirt worn by the effigy of Death to the tree 
clearly indicates that the tree is a kind of revivifica- 
tion, in a new form, of the destroyed effigy.^ This 
comes out also in the Transylvanian custom ; the 
dressing of a girl in the clothes worn by the Death, and 
the leading her about the village to the same songs 
which had been sung when the Death was being carried 
about, show that she is intended to be a kind of re- 
suscitation of the being whose effigy has just been 
destroyed. These examples therefore suggest that the 
Death whose demolition is represented in these cere- 
monies cannot be regarded as the purely destructive 
agent which we understand by Death. If the tree 
which is brought back as an embodiment of the reviv- 
ing vegetation of spring is clothed in the shirt worn by 
the Death which has been just destroyed, the object 
certainly cannot be to check and counteract the revival 
of vegetation ; it can only be to foster and promote it. 
Therefore the being which has just been destroyed — 
the so-called Death — must be supposed to be endowed 
with a vivifying and quickening influence, which it can 
communicate to the vegetable and even the animal 
world. This ascription of a life-giving virtue to the 

1 E. Gerard, The Land beyond the - This is also the view taken of the cus- 

Forest, ii. 47-49. tomby Mannhardt,^a?/w/v///«j', p. 419. 


figure of Death is put beyond a doubt by the custom, 
observed in some places, of taking pieces of the straw 
effigy of Death and placing them in the fields to make 
the crops grow, or in the manger to make the cattle 
thrive. Thus in Spachendorf (Austrian Silesia) the 
figure of Death made of straw, brushwood, and rags, 
is carried out with wild songs to an open place outside 
the village and there burned, and while it is burning a 
general struggle takes place for the pieces, which are 
pulled out of the flames with bare hands. Each one 
who secures a fragment of the effigy ties it to a branch 
of the largest tree in his garden, or buries it in his 
field, in the belief that this causes the crops to grow 
better.^ In the Troppau district (Austrian Silesia) the 
straw figure which the boys make on the Fourth 
Sunday in Lent is dressed by the girls in woman's 
clothes and hung with ribbons, necklace, and garlands. 
Attached to a long pole it is carried out of the village, 
followed by a troop of young people of both sexes, 
who alternately frolic, lament, and sing songs. Arrived 
at its destination — a field outside the village — the 
figure is stripped of its clothes and ornaments ; then 
the crowd rushes on it and tears it to bits, scuffling for 
the fragments. Every one tries to get a wisp of the 
straw of which the effigy was made, because such a 
wisp, placed in the manger, is believed to make the 
cattle thrive." Or the straw is put in the hens' nest, 
it being supposed that this prevents the hens from 
carrying away their eggs, and makes them brood 
much better.^ The same attribution of a fertilising 
power to the figure of Death appears in the belief that 

1 \&xn?i\ec\ien, Myt/ien nnd Brducke licke Jahr, p. 82. 

des Volkes in Oesterreich, p. 293 sq. ^ Philo vom Walde, Schksien 

2 Reinsberg-Diiringsfeld, Das fest- Sage und Branch, ^. 122. 


if the bearers of the figure, after throwing it away, 
meet cattle and strike them with their sticks, this will 
render the cattle prolific/ Perhaps the sticks had 
been previously used to beat the Death," and so had 
acquired the fertilising power ascribed to the effigy. 
In Leipzig at Mid- Lent men and women of the 
lowest class used to carry through all the streets a 
straw effigy of Death, which they exhibited to young 
wives, and finally threw into the river, alleging that 
this made young wives fruitful, cleansed the city, 
and averted the plague and other sickness from the 
inhabitants for that year.^ 

It seems hardly possible to separate from the 
May- trees the trees or branches which are brought 
into the village after the destruction of the Death. 
The bearers who bring them in profess to be bring- 
ing in the Summer ; ^ therefore the trees obviously 
represent the Summer ; and the doll which is some- 
times attached to the Summer-tree is a duplicate 
representative of the Summer, just as the May is 
sometimes represented at the same time by a May- 
tree and a May Lady.^ Further, the Summer- 
trees are adorned like May-trees with ribbons, etc.; 
like May -trees, when large, they are planted in the 
ground and climbed up ; and like May -trees, when 
small, they are carried from door to door by boys or 
girls singing songs and collecting money.*^ And as 
if to demonstrate the identity of the two sets of 
customs the bearers of the Summer-tree some- 
times announce that they are bringing in the Summer 

1 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie,'^ ii. * See above, pp. 83, 263. 

640^(7. 2 See above, p. 260. " Above, p. 263, and Grimm, Z>('2//j-f/;e 

3 K. Schwenk, Die Alythologie der Mythologie, * ii. 644 ; Reinsberg-Diir- 

Slawen, p. 217 sq. ingsfeld, Fest - Kalender aiis Bohmen, 

■1 Above, p. 263. p. 87 sq. 


and the May/ The customs, therefore, of bringing 
in the May and bringing in the Summer are essentially 
the same; and the Summer-tree is merely another 
form of the May -tree, the only distinction (besides 
that of name) being in the time at which they are 
respectively brought in ; for while the May-tree is 
usually fetched in on the ist of May or at Whit- 
suntide, the Summer-tree is fetched in on the Fourth 
Sunday in Lent. Therefore, if the explanation here 
adopted of the May-tree (namely, that it is an embodi- 
ment of the tree -spirit or spirit of vegetation) is 
correct, the Summer-tree must likewise be an embodi- 
ment of the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation. But 
we have seen that the Summer-tree is in some cases 
a revivification of the effigy of Death. It follows, 
therefore, that in these cases the effigy called Death 
must be an embodiment of the tree -spirit or spirit of 
vegetation. This inference is confirmed, first, by 
the vivifying and fertilising influence which the frag- 
ments of the effigy of Death are believed to exercise 
both on vegetable and on animal life ; ■ for this in- 
fluence, as we saw in the first chapter, is supposed 
to be a special attribute of the tree -spirit. It is 
confirmed, secondly, by observing that the effigy of 
Death is sometimes composed of birchen twigs, of 
the branch of a beech-tree, of a threshed-out corn- 
sheaf, or of hemp ; ^ and that sometimes it is hung 
on a little tree and so carried about by girls collect- 
ing money,'* just as is done with the May- tree and 
the May Lady, and with the Summer-tree and the 

1 Above, p. 263. * Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, Fest-Kalen- 

„ ^ , ,^ der aiis Bdhmen,ri.'&Z. Sometimes the 

- See above, p. 266 sqq. ^^^ ^^ ^^^^^ ^^.^^^^^^^ ^ ^^^^^ .^ 

^ Above, pp. 257, 259, 265 ; and carried round by boys who collect 
Grimm, D. J]/.* ii. 643. gratuities. Grimm, £>. M.* ii. 644. 


doll attached to it. In short we are driven to regard 
the expulsion of Death and the bringing in of Summer 
as, in some cases at least, merely another form of that 
death and resuscitation of the spirit of vegetation 
in spring which we saw enacted in the killing and 
resurrection of the Wild Man.^ The burial and 
resurrection of the Carnival is probably another way 
of expressing the same idea. The burying of the 
representative of the Carnival under a dung-heap 
is natural, if he is supposed to possess a quickening 
and fertilising influence like that ascribed to the 
effigy of Death. By the Esthonians, indeed, the straw 
figure which is carried out of the village in the usual 
way on Shrove Tuesday is not called the Carnival, 
but the Wood-spirit [Ilfetsik), and the identity of it 
with the wood-spirit is further shown by fixing it 
to the top of a tree in the wood, where it remains 
for a year, and is besought almost daily with prayers 
and offerings to protect the herds ; for like a true 
wood-spirit the Metsik is a patron of cattle. Some- 
times the Metsik is made of sheafs of corn." There- 
fore, we may fairly conjecture that the names Carnival, 
Death, and Summer, are comparatively late and in- 
adequate expressions for the beings personified or 
embodied in the customs described. The very 
abstractness of the names bespeaks a modern origin ; 
the personification of times and seasons like the 
Carnival and Summer, or of an abstract notion like 
death, is hardly primitive. But the ceremonies them- 
selves bear the stamp of a dateless antiquity ; therefore 
we can hardly help supposing that in their origin the 

1 Above, p. 243. der gelehrten Estnischen Geselhchaft 

'^ Wiedemann, Aus dein imieren iiiid zn Dorpat, vii. Heft 2, p. 10 sq. ; 

ausseren Leben derEhstett, p. 353 ; Holz- W. Mannhardt, Baitm/acltiis, p. 407 sq. 

mayer, " Osiliana," in Verhandhingen 


Ideas which they embodied were of a more simple 
and concrete order. The conception of a tree, perhaps 
of a particular kind of tree (for some savages have 
no word for tree in general), or even of an individual 
tree, is sufficiently concrete to supply a basis from 
which by a gradual process of generalisation the wider 
conception of a spirit of vegetation might be reached. 
But this general conception of vegetation would readily 
be confounded with the season in which it manifests 
itself ; hence the substitution of Spring, Summer, or 
May for the tree-spirit or spirit of vegetation would 
be easy and natural. Again the concrete notion of 
the dying tree or dying vegetation would by a similar 
process of generalisation glide into a notion of death 
in general ; so that instead of the carrying out of the 
dying or dead vegetation in spring (as a preliminary 
to its revival) we should in time get a carrying out 
of Death itself. The view that in these spring cere- 
monies Death meant originally the dying or dead 
vegetation of winter has the high support of W. 
Mannhardt ; and he confirms it by the analogy of 
the name Death as applied to the spirit of the ripe 
corn. Commonly the spirit of the ripe corn is con- 
ceived, not as dead, but as old, and hence it goes by 
the name of the Old Man or the Old Woman. But 
in some places the last sheaf cut at harvest, which is 
generally believed to be the seat of the corn spirit, 
is called "the Dead One;" children are warned 
against entering the corn-fields because Death sits 
in the corn ; and, in a game played by Saxon children 
In Transylvania at the maize harvest. Death is repre- 
sented by a child completely covered with maize 

1 W. Mannhardt, Baiiinkiiltiis, pp. 417-42 1. 


The supposition that behind the conceptions of 
Death, Carnival, Summer, etc., as embodied in 
these spring ceremonies, there lurk older and more 
concrete notions is to a certain extent countenanced 
by the fact that in Russia funeral ceremonies like 
those of "Burying the Carnival" and "Carrying 
out Death " are celebrated under the names, not 
of Death or the Carnival, but of certain mythic 
figures, Kostrubonko, Kostroma, Kupalo, Lada, and 
Yarilo. These Russian ceremonies are observed both 
in spring and at midsummer. Thus "in Little Russia 
it used to be the custom at Eastertide to celebrate the 
funeral of a being called Kostrubonko, the deity of the 
spring. A circle was formed of singers who moved 
slowly around a girl who lay on the ground as if dead, 
and as they went they sang — 

' Dead, dead is our Kostrubonko ! 
Dead, dead is our dear one ! ' 

until the girl suddenly sprang up, on which the chorus 
joyfully exclaimed — 

' Come to life, come to life has our Kostrubonko ! 
Come to life, come to life has our dear one ! '" ^ 

On the Eve of St. John (Midsummer Eve) a figure of 
Kupalo is made of straw and "is dressed in woman's 
clothes, with a necklace and a floral crown. Then 
a tree is felled, and, after being decked with ribbons, 
is set up on some chosen spot. Near this tree, to 
which they give the name of Marena [Winter or 
Death], the straw figure is placed, together with a 
table, on which stand spirits and viands. Afterwards 
a bonfire is lit, and the young men and maidens jump 
over it in couples, carrying the figure with them. On 

^ Ralston, Songs of the Russian People, p. 221. 


the next day they strip the tree and the figure of their 
ornaments, and throw them both into a stream." ^ On 
St. Peter's Day (29th June) or on the following Sunday, 
" the Funeral of Kostroma" or of Lada or of Yarilo is 
celebrated in Russia. In the Governments of Penza 
and Simbirsk the " funeral " used to be represented as 
follows. A bonfire was kindled on the 28th of June, 
and on the next day the maidens chose one of their 
number to play the part of Kostroma. Her com- 
panions saluted her with deep obeisances, placed her 
on a board, and carried her to the bank of a stream. 
There they bathed her in the water, while the oldest 
girl made a basket of lime-tree bark and beat it like a 
drum. Then they returned to the village and ended 
the day with processions, games, and dances.' In the 
Murom district, Kostroma was represented by a straw 
figure dressed in woman's clothes and flowers. This 
was laid in a trough and carried with songs to the 
bank of a lake or river. Here the crowd divided into 
two sides, of which the one attacked and the other 
defended the figure. At last the assailants gained the 
day, stripped the figure of its dress and ornaments, 
tore it in pieces, trod the straw of which it was made 
under foot, and flung it into the stream ; while the 
defenders of the figure hid their faces in their hands 
and pretended to bewail the death of Kostroma.^ In 
the district of Kostroma the burial of Yarilo was 
celebrated on the 29th or 30th of June. The people 
chose an old man and gave him a small coffin con- 
taining a Priapus-like figure representing Yarilo. This 
he carried out of the town, followed by women chanting 

1 Ralston, op. cit. p. 241. ^ W. Mannhardt, Baumkiiltus, p. 

2 Ralston, op. cit. p. 243 sq.; W. 414 .f</.; Ralston, ^/. r//. p. 244. 
Mannhardt, Bamnkiiltits, p. 414. 



dirges and expressing by their gestures grief and 
despair. In the open fields a grave was dug, and 
into it the figure was lowered amid weeping and 
wailing, after which games and dances were begun, 
"calling to mind the funeral games celebrated in old 
times by the pagan Slavonians."^ In Little Russia 
the figure of Yarilo was laid in a coffin and carried 
through the streets after sunset surrounded by drunken 
women, who kept repeating mournfully, " He is dead ! 
he is dead ! " The men lifted and shook the figure as 
if they were trying to recall the dead man to life. 
Then they said to the women, "Women, weep not. 
I know what is sweeter than honey." But the women 
continued to lament and chant, as they do at funerals. 
" Of what was he guilty } He was so good. He will 
arise no more. O how shall we part from thee ? What 
is life without thee ? Arise, if only for a brief hour. 
But he rises not, he rises not." At last the Yarilo 
was buried in a grave.^ 

These Russian customs are plainly of the same 
nature as those which in Austria and Germany are 
known as "Burying the Carnival" and "Carrying out 
Death." Therefore if my interpretation of the latter 
is right, the Russian Kostroma, Yarilo, etc. must also 
have been originally embodiments of the spirit of 
vegetation, and their death must have been regarded 
as a necessary preliminary to their revival. The 
revival as a sequel to the death is enacted in the 
first of the ceremonies described, the death and 
resurrection of Kostrubonko. The reason why in 
some of these Russian ceremonies the death of the 
spirit of vegetation is celebrated at midsummer may 

1 Ralston, op. cit. p. 245 ; W. Mannhardt, Batiiiiktiltus, p. 416. 

2 W. Mannhardt, I.e.; Ralston, I.e. 


be that the decHne of summer is dated from Mid- 
summer Day, after which the days begin to shorten, 
and the sun sets out on his downward journey — 

" To the darksome hollows 
Where the frosts of winter lie." 

Such a turning-point of the year, when vegetation 
might be thought to share the incipient though still 
almost imperceptible decay of summer, might very 
well be chosen by primitive man as a fit moment for 
resorting to those magic ceremonies by which he 
hopes to stay the decline, or at least to ensure the 
revival, of plant life. 

But while the death of vegetation appears to have 
been represented in all, and its revival in some, of these 
spring and midsummer ceremonies, there are features 
in some of them which can hardly be explained on 
this hypothesis alone. The solemn funeral, the lamen- 
tations, and the mourning attire, which often characterise 
these ceremonies, are indeed appropriate at the death 
of the beneficent spirit of vegetation. But what shall 
we say of the glee with which the effigy is often carried 
out, of the sticks and stones with which it is assailed, 
and the taunts and curses which are hurled at 
it ? What shall we say of the dread of the effigy 
evinced by the haste with which the bearers scamper 
home as soon as they have thrown it away, and by 
the belief that some one must soon die in any house 
into which it has looked } This dread might per- 
haps be explained by a belief that there is a certain 
infectiousness in the dead spirit of vegetation which 
renders its approach dangerous. But this explanation, 
besides being rather strained, does not cover the re- 
joicings which often attend the carrying out of Death. 


We must therefore recognise two distinct and seem- 
ingly opposite features in these ceremonies ; on the 
one hand, sorrow for the death, and affection and respect 
for the dead ; on the other hand, fear and hatred of the 
dead, and rejoicings at his death. How the former of 
these features is to be explained I have attempted 
to show; how the latter came to be so closely associated 
with the former is a question which I shall try to answer 
in the sequel. 

Before we quit these European customs to go 
farther afield, it will be well to notice that occasionally 
the expulsion of Death or of a mythic being is con- 
ducted without any visible representative of the per- 
sonage expelled. Thus at Konigshain, near Gorlitz 
(Silesia), all the villagers, young and old, used to go 
out with straw torches to the top of a neighbouring 
hill, called Todtcnstein (Death-stone), where they lit 
their torches, and so returned home singing, "We 
have driven out Death, we are bringing back 
Summer."^ In Albania young people light torches of 
resinous wood on Easter Eve, and march in proces- 
sion through the village brandishing them. At last 
they throw the torches into the river, saying, "Ha, 
Kore, we fling you into the river, like these torches, 
that you may return no more." Some say that the 
intention of the ceremony is to drive out winter ; but 
Kore is conceived as a malignant being who devours 
children. - 

In the Kanagra district, India, there is a custom 
observed by young girls in spring which closely 
resembles some of the European spring ceremonies 
just described. It is called the Rali Ka meld, or 

1 Grimm, Deutsche JMythologie,^ ii. - J. G. von Halin, Albanesischc 

644. Sttidim, i. 160. 


fair of Rali, the Rali being a small painted earthen 
image of Siva or Parvati. It lasts through most 
of Chet (March-April) up to the Sankrant of Bai- 
sakh (April), and is in vogue all over the Kanagra 
district. Its celebration is entirely confined to young 
girls. On a morning in March all the young girls 
of the village take small baskets of d/tb grass and 
flowers to a certain fixed spot, where they throw them 
in a heap. Round this heap they stand in a circle and 
sing. This goes on every day for ten days, till the 
heap of grass and flowers has reached a fair height. 
Then they cut in the jungle two branches having three 
prongs at one end, and place them, prongs downwards, 
over the heap of flowers, so as to make two tripods or 
pyramids. On the single uppermost points of these 
branches they get an image -maker to construct two 
clay images, one to represent Siva, and the other 
Parvati. The girls then divide themselves into two 
parties, one for Siva and one for Parvati, and marry 
the images in the usual way, leaving out no part of the 
ceremony. After the marriage they have a feast, the 
cost of which is defrayed by contributions solicited 
from their parents. Then at the next Sankrant 
(Baisakh) they all go together to the riverside, throw 
the images into a deep pool, and weep over the place, 
as though they were performing funeral obsequies. 
The boys of the neighbourhood often annoy them by 
diving after the images, bringing them up, and waving 
them about while the girls are crying over them. The 
object of the fair is said to be to secure a good 

That in this Indian ceremony the deities Siva and 
Parvati are conceived as spirits of vegetation seems to 

1 Captain R. C. Temple, in Indiait A^itiquary, xi. {1882) p. 297 sq. 


be proved by the fact that their images are placed on 
branches over a heap of grass and flowers. Here, as 
often in European folk-custom, the divinities of vege- 
tation are represented in duplicate, by plants and by 
puppets. The marriage of these Indian deities in 
spring corresponds to the European ceremonies in 
which the marriage of the vernal spirits of vegetation 
is represented by the King and Queen of May, the 
May Bride, Bridegroom of the May, etc.^ The throw- 
ing of the images into the water, and the mourning for 
them, are the equivalents of the European customs of 
throwing the dead spirit of vegetation (under the name 
of Death, Yarilo, Kostroma, etc.) into the water and 
lamenting over it. Again, in India, as often in 
Europe, the rite is performed exclusively by females. 
The notion that the ceremony was effective for pro- 
curing husbands to the girls can be explained by the 
quickening and fertilising influence which the spirit of 
vegetation is believed to exert upon human and 
animal, as well as upon vegetable life.- 

§ 4. — Adonis 

But it is in Egypt and Western Asia that the 
death and resurrection of vegetation appear to have 
been most widely celebrated with ceremonies like those 
of modern Europe. Under the names of Osiris, 
Adonis, Thammuz, Attis, and Dionysus, the Egyp- 
tians, Syrians, Babylonians, Phrygians, and Greeks 
represented the decay and revival of vegetation with 
rites which, as the ancients themselves recognised, 

1 See above, p. 94 sqq. - Above, p. 70 s<jtj. 


were substantially the same, and which find their 
parallels in the spring and midsummer customs of our 
European peasantry. The nature and worship of these 
deities have been discussed at length by many learned 
writers ; all that I propose to do is to sketch those 
salient features in their ritual and legends which seem 
to establish the view here taken of their nature. We 
begin with Adonis or Thammuz. 

The worship of Adonis was practised by the 
Semitic peoples of Syria, from whom it was borrowed 
by the Greeks as early at least as the fifth century 
before Christ. The name Adonis is the Phoenician 
Adon, "lord."^ He was said to have been a fair 
youth, beloved by Aphrodite (the Semitic Astarte), 
but slain by a boar in his youthful prime. His death 
was annually lamented with a bitter wailing, chiefly 
by women ; images of him, dressed to resemble 
corpses, were carried out as to burial and then thrown 
into the sea or into springs ; - and in some places his 
revival was celebrated on the following day.^ But 
the ceremonies varied somewhat both in the manner 
and the season of their celebration in different places. 
At Alexandria images of Adonis and Aphrodite were 
displayed on two couches ; beside them were set ripe 
fruits of all kinds, cakes, plants growing in flower pots, 
and green bowers twined with anise. The marriage 
of the lovers was celebrated one day, and on the next 
the image of Adonis was borne by women attired as 
mourners, with streaming hair and bared breasts, to 

1 Baudissin, Studien ziir semitischen ^ Besides Lucian (cited below) see 
Religionsgeschichte, i. 299 ; W. Mann- Jerome, Comment, in Ezcchiel. viii. 
hardt, Aiitike Wald-tmd Feldktilte, p. 14, in qua [solemnitate) plangitiir 
274. quasi mortuus, et postea reviviscens, 

2 VhiiSLXch, Akibiades, i8;Zenobius, caniiur atque laudatm- . . . interfec- 
C^wz-wr. i. 49 ; Theocritus, XV. 132 j^. ; tione7n et resurrcdionem Adonidis 
Eustathius on Homer, Od. xi. 590. plamtu et gaiidio prosequens. 


the sea-shore and committed to the waves. ^ The 
date at which this Alexandrian ceremony was observed 
is not expressly stated ; but from the mention of the 
ripe fruits it has been inferred that it took place in 
late summer.- At Byblus the death of Adonis was 
annually mourned with weeping, wailing, and beating 
of the breast ; but next day he was believed to come 
to life again and ascend up to heaven in the presence 
of his worshippers.^ This celebration appears to have 
taken place in spring ; for its date was determined by 
the discoloration of the river Adonis, and this has 
been observed by modern travellers to occur in spring. 
At that season the red earth washed down from the 
mountains by the rain tinges the water of the river 
and even the sea for a great way with a blood -red 
hue, and the crimson stain was believed to be the 
blood of Adonis, annually wounded to death by the 
boar on Mount Lebanon.^ Again, the red anemone'^ 
was said to have sprung from the blood of Adonis ; 
and as the anemone blooms in Syria about Easter, this 
is a fresh proof that the festival of Adonis, or at least 
one of his festivals, was celebrated in spring. The 
name of the flower is probably derived from Naaman 
("darling"), which seems to have been an epithet of 
Adonis. The Arabs still call the anemone "wounds 
of the Naaman."" 

1 Theocritus, XV. p. 411. Renan observed the discolora- 

2 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 277. tion at the beginnuig of February ; 
^ Lucian, De dca Syria, 6. The Baudissui, Stitdieii, i. 298 (referring to 

words ey rhv ijipa Tr^fxirovai imply that Renan, Mission de Phenicie, p. 283). 

the ascension was supposed to take pLice Milton's lines will occur to most readers, 
in the presence, if not before the eyes, •' Ovid, Mctam. x. 735, compared 

of the worshipping crowds. with Bion i. 66. The latter, however, 

* Lucian, op. cit. 8. The discol- makesthe anemone spring from the tears, 

oration of the river and the sea was as the rose from the blood of Adonis, 
observed by Maundrell on Ifth March ^ W. Robertson Smith, "Ctesiasand 

\%%^. See his "Journey from Aleppo the Semiramis legend," in Englis/i 

to Jerusalem," in Bohn's ^ar/j/ 7;-«w/.f Historical Revieiv, April 1887, fol- 

in Palestine, edited by Thomas Wright, lowing Lagarde. 


The resemblance of these ceremonies to the Indian 
and European ceremonies previously described is 
obvious. In particular, apart from the somewhat 
doubtful date of its celebration, the Alexandrian cere- 
mony is almost identical with the Indian. In both 
of them the marriage of two divinities, whose con- 
nection with vegetation seems indicated by the fresh 
plants with which they are surrounded, is celebrated 
in effigy, and the effigies are afterwards mourned over 
and thrown into the water.^ From the similarity of 
these customs to each other and to the spring and mid- 
summer customs of modern Europe we should naturally 
expect that they all admit of a common explanation. 
Hence, if the explanation here adopted of the latter 
is correct, the ceremony of the death and resurrection 
of Adonis must also have been a representation of 
the decay and revival of vegetation. The inference 
thus based on the similarity of the customs is con- 
firmed by the following features in the legend and 
ritual of Adonis. His connection with vegetation 
comes out at once in the common story of his birth. 
He was said to have been born from a myrrh-tree, 
the bark of which bursting, after a ten months' gesta- 
tion, allowed the lovely infant to come forth. Accord- 
ing to some, a boar rent the bark with his tusk and 
so opened a passage for the babe. A faint ration- 
alistic colour was given to the legend by saying that 
his mother was a woman named Myrrh, who had 
been turned into a myrrh -tree soon after she had 
conceived the child. ^ Again the story that Adonis 

1 In the Alexandrian ceremony, how- Schol. on Theocritus, i. 109; Antoninus 

ever, it appears to have been the image Liberalis, 34 ; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 

of Adonis only which was thrown into 829 ; Ovid, Metaiit. x. 489 sqq. ; 

the sea. Servius on Virgil, Aen. v. 72, and on 

- Apollodorus, Bihlioih. iii. 14, 4 ; Bucol. x. 18; Hyginus, Fab. 58, 164; 


spent half, or according to others a third, of the 
year in the lower world and the rest of it in the 
upper world, ^ is explained most simply and natur- 
ally by supposing that he represented vegetation, 
especially the corn, which lies buried in the earth 
half the year and reappears above ground the 
other half. Certainly of the annual phenomena of 
nature there is none which suggests so obviously 
the idea of a yearly death and resurrection as the 
disappearance and reappearance of vegetation in 
autumn and spring. Adonis has been taken for the 
sun ; but there is nothing in the sun's annual course 
within the temperate and tropical zones to suggest 
that he is dead for half or a third of the year and 
alive for the other half or two -thirds. He might, 
indeed, be conceived as weakened in winter,- but 
dead he could not be thought to be ; his daily re- 
appearance contradicts the supposition. Within the 
arctic circle, where the sun annually disappears for a 
continuous period of from twenty -four hours to six 
months, according to the latitude, his annual death 
and resurrection would certainly be an obvious idea ; 
but no one has suggested that the Adonis worship 
came from those regions. On the other hand the 
annual death and revival of vegetation is a conception 
which readily presents itself to men in every stage of 
savagery and civilisation ; and the vastness of the 
scale on which this yearly decay and regeneration 

Fulgentius, iii. 8. The word Myrrha natiira dcorum, 28, p. 163 sq. ed. 

or Smyrna is borrowed from the Osannus ; Apollodorus, iii. 14, 4. 
Phoenician (Liddell and Scott, Greek - Thus, after the autumnal equinox 

Lexicon, s.v. a-fii'/pua). Hence the the Egyptians celebrated the " nativity 

mother's name, as well as the son's, of the sun's walking-sticks," because, as 

was taken directly from the Semites. the sun declined daily in the sky, and his 

1 Schol. on Theocritus, iii. 48 ; heat and light diminished, he was sup- 

Hyginus, Astronoiii. ii. 7; Lucian, posed to need a staff with which to sup- 

Dialog. deor. \\. i; Cornutus, De porthissteps. V\vi\.a.xch,IsisetOsins,l2. 


takes place, together with man's intimate dependence 
on it for subsistence, combine to render it the 
most striking annual phenomenon in nature, at least 
within the temperate zones. It is no wonder that a 
phenomenon so important, so striking, and so universal 
should, by suggesting similar ideas, have given rise 
to similar rites in many lands. We may, therefore, 
accept as probable an explanation of the Adonis wor- 
ship which accords so well with the facts of nature 
and with the analogy of similar rites in other lands, 
and which besides is countenanced by a considerable 
body of opinion amongst the ancients themselves.^ 

The character of Thammuz or Adonis as a corn- 
spirit comes out plainly in an account of his festival 
given by an Arabic writer of the tenth century. 
In describing the rites and sacrifices observed at the 
different seasons of the year by the heathen Syrians of 
Harran, he says : — " Thammuz (July). In the middle 
of this month is the festival of el-Buo;at, that is, of the 
weeping women, and this is the Ta-uz festival, which 
is celebrated in honour of the god Ta-uz. The women 
bewail him, because his lord slew him so cruelly. 

ground his bones in a mill, and then scattered them to 

1 Schol. on Theocritus, iii. 48, Adoitidis sacns, quod simulacrum 

6 "ASco;/!?, ■r^yovv 6 aiTos 6 aTreLpo/xevos, aliquod essefrugum adulta7-ti77i7-eUgio7ies 

I4 ixr\va% if ry 73 Trote? ciTro ttjs a-rropas, mysticae doceiit. Id. xxii. 9, 1 5, amato 

KoX %^ /jLTJvas e'xet avrdv rj 'A(ppo8iTr], Veneris, nt fabulae fiiigunt, ap)-i dente 

TovreuTiv i] evKpaaia rod depos. /cat fera/i dekto, quod in adulto flore sec- 

eKTore \atx^dvovcnv avrbv ol avdpunroi. tarwn est indicium frugum. Clemens 

Jerome on Ezech. c. viii. 14. Eadem Alexandr. Hom. 6, 11 (quoted by 

gentilifashtijuscemodifalnilaspoetarum, W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald-uiui 

quae hahmt turpitudincm, interpretatur Feldkulte, p. 281), \dix^o.vovaL 5e Kal 

subtilitcrinferfcctionemetresurrectio}iem "^^^vlv eh ojpaiovs Kapwovs. Etymolog. 

Adonidis planctuetgaudio prosequens: Magn. "AScoj/is KvpioV Uva.Tai Ka.1 6 

quorum alterum in seniiftibus, quae ko-Pttos elvai adwvLs • olov dSoi^/etos Kapirbs, 

moriuntur in terra, alterum in segeti- apicxKuv. Eusebius, Praepar. Evang. 

bus, quibus 7?iortua semi7ia re7tas- iii- ", 9> "ASwvts t^s rSiv reXeMv 

cu7itur, ostetidi putat. Ammianus iMar- Kapwwf eKTOfXTJs avfi^oXov. 
cellinus, xix. i, 11, z'« solle7/mibus 


the wind. The women (during this festival) eat 
nothing which has been ground in a mill, but limit 
their diet to steeped wheat, sweet vetches, dates, 
raisins, and the like."^ Thammuz (of which Ta-uz is 
only another form of pronunciation) is here like Burns's 
John Barleycorn — 

" They wasted, o'er a scorching flame, 
The marrow of his bones ; 
But a miller us'd him worst of all, 

For he crush'd him between two stones.'' 2 

But perhaps the best proof that Adonis was a 
deity of vegetation is furnished by the gardens of 
Adonis, as they were called. These were baskets or 
pots filled with earth, in which wheat, barley, lettuces, 
fennel, and various kinds of flowers were sown and 
tended for eight days, chiefly or exclusively by women. 
Fostered by the sun's heat, the plants shot up rapidly, 
but having no root withered as rapidly away, and at 
the end of eight days were carried out with the images 
of the dead Adonis, and flung with them into the sea 
or into springs." At Athens these ceremonies were 
observed at midsummer. For we know that the fleet 
which Athens fitted out against Syracuse, and by the de- 
struction of which her power was permanently crippled, 
sailed at midsummer, and by an ominous coincidence 
the sombre rites of Adonis were being celebrated at 
the very time. As the troops marched down to the 
harbour to embark, the streets through which they 

^ D. Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier 2ind which add Diogenianus, i. 14; Plutarch, 

der Ssabismiis, ii. 27 ; id., Ueber De se7-a imm. viiid. 17. Women 

Tammtlz tind die Menschenverehrung only are mentioned as planting the 

bei den alien Babylo7iiern, -p. 38. gardens of Adonis by Plutarch, I.e.; 

2 The comparison is due to Felix Julian, Convivitim, p. 329 ed. Span- 

Liebrecht [Ziir Volkshmde, p. 259). heim (p. 423 ed. Hertlein) ; Eustathius 

2 For the authorities see W. Mann- on Homer, Od. xi. 590. On the other 

hardt, Antike Wald-^ind Feldktdte, p. hand Diogenianus, I.e. says (pvTfvovTes 

279, noie 2, and p. 280, noie 2 ; to rj (pvrevovcrai. 


passed were lined with coffins and corpse-like effigies, 
and the air was rent with the noise of women wailing- 


for the dead Adonis. The circumstance cast a Hoom 


over the sailing of the most splendid armament that 
Athens ever sent to sea/ 

These gardens of Adonis are most naturally inter- 
preted as representatives of Adonis or manifestations 
of his power ; they represented him, true to his ori- 
ginal nature, in vegetable form, while the images of 
him, with which they were carried out and cast into 
the water, represented him in his later anthropo- 
morphic form. All these Adonis ceremonies, if I 
am right, were originally intended as charms to 
promote the growth and revival of vegetation ; and 
the principle by which they were supposed to pro- 
duce this effect was sympathetic magic. As was 
explained in the first chapter, primitive people suppose 
that by representing or mimicking the effect which 
they desire to produce they actually help to produce 
it ; thus by sprinkling water they make rain, by light- 
ing a fire they make sunshine, and so on. Similarly 
by mimicking the growth of crops, they hope to insure 
a good harvest. The rapid growth of the wheat 
and barley in the gardens of Adonis was intended 
to make the corn shoot up ; and the throwing of 
the gardens and of the images into the water was 
a charm to secure a due supply of fertilising rain.- 
The same, I take it, was the object of throwing the 

1 Y\\i.\.'^x(^,Alcibiades,\Z;id.,Nicias, chiefly or entirely upon irrigation, the 
13. The date of the sailing of the fleet purpose of the charm is doubtless to 
is given by Thucydides, vi. 30, Qipovi secure a plentiful flow of water in the 
p.ecovvTO'i ri^y). Streams. But as the ultimate object 

and the charms for securing it are the 

2 In hot southern countries like same in both cases, it has not been 
Egypt and the Semitic regions of thought necessary always to point out 
Western Asia, where vegetation depends the distinction. 

j86 corn drenched 

effigies of Death and the Carnival into water in the 
corresponding ceremonies of modern Europe. We 
have seen that the custom of drenching a leaf-clad 
person (who undoubtedly personifies vegetation) with 
water is still resorted to in Europe for the express 
purpose of producing rain/ Similarly the custom of 
throwing water on the last corn cut at harvest, or on 
the person who brings it home (a custom observed in 
Germany and France, and till quite lately in England 
and Scotland), is in some places practised with the 
avowed intent to procure rain for the next year's crops. 
Thus in Wallachia and amongst the Roumanians of 
Transylvania, when a girl is bringing home a crown 
made of the last ears of corn cut at harvest, all who 
meet her hasten to throw water on her, and two farm- 
servants are placed at the door for the purpose ; for they 
believe that if this were not done, the crops next year 
would perish from drought." So amongst the Saxons 
of Transylvania, the person who wears the wreath made 
of the last corn cut (sometimes the reaper who cut the 
last corn also wears the wreath) is drenched with water 
to the skin ; for the wetter he is the better will be next 
year's harvest, and the more grain there will be threshed 
out.'^ At the spring ploughing in Prussia, when the 
ploughmen and sowers returned in the evening from 
their work in the fields, the farmer's wife and the ser- 
vants used to splash water over them. The ploughmen 
and sowers retorted by seizing every one, throwing them 
into the pond, and ducking them under the water. The 

1 See above, p. i6. ^ G. A. Heinrich, Agmrischc Sitten 

und Gebrdiiche tinter den Sachsen 

2 W. Mannhardt, Baiinikiiltiis, p. Siebenbi'n-gens (Hermanstadt, 1880), 
214; W. Schmidt, Das Jahr tind seine p. 24; Wsissocki, Sitten iind Branch 
Tage in Meimmg und Branch dcr der Siebetibinger Sachsen (Haml)urg, 
Romdnen Siebenbllrgens, p. 18 sq. 1888), p. 32. 


farmers wife might claim exemption on payment of 
a forfeit ; but every one else had to be clucked. By 
observing this custom they hoped to ensure a due 
supply of rain for the seed.^ Also after harvest in 
Prussia, the person who wore a wreath made of the 
last corn cut was drenched with water, while a prayer 
was uttered that "as the corn had sprung up and 
multiplied through the water, so it might spring up and 
multiply in the barn and granary."" In a Babylonian 
legend, the goddess I star (Astarte, Aphrodite) de- 
scends to Hades to fetch the water of life with which 
to restore to life the dead Thammuz, and it appears 
that the water was thrown over him at a great mourn- 
ing ceremony, at which men and women stood round 
the funeral pyre of Thammuz lamenting." This 
legend, as Mannhardt points out, is probably a mythi- 
cal explanation of a Babylonian festival resembling 
the Syrian festival of Adonis. At this festival, which 
doubtless took place in the month Thammuz (June- 
July) * and therefore about midsummer, the dead Tham- 
muz was probably represented in effigy, water was 
poured over him, and he came to life again. This 
Babylonian legend is, therefore, of importance, since 
it confirms the view that the purpose for which 
the images and gardens of Adonis were thrown into 
the water was to effect the resurrection of the god, that 

1 Matthaus Praetorius, Deliciac Fnis- according to modern scholars the month 

sicae, 55 ; W. Mannhardt, Baiimknltus, corresponded rather to July, or to part of 

p. 214 sq. note. June and part of July. Movers, Die 

- Praetorius, op. cit., 60; W. Mann- Fhoenizier, i. 210; Mannhardt, /4. /F./^, 

hardt, Baninkitltus, p. 215, note. p. 275. My friend, Prof. W. Robertson 

^ A. H. Sayce, Religion of the Smith, informs me that owing to the 

ancient Babylonians (Hibbert Lectures, variations of the local Syrian calendars 

l8S7),p.22i .(-(y^.; W.Mannhardt,^«//X'e the month Thammuz fell in different 

Wald-und Feldkulte, ^. 2"]^. places at different times, from mid- 

* According to Jerome (on Ezechiel, summer to autumn, or from June to 

viii. 14), Thammuz was June ; but September. 


is, to secure the revival of vegetation. The connection 
of Thammuz with vegetation is proved by a fragment 
of a Babylonian hymn, in which Thammuz is described 
as dwelling in the midst of a great tree at the centre of 
the earth. ^ 

The opinion that the gardens of Adonis are 
essentially charms to promote the growth of vege- 
tation, especially of the crops, and that they belong 
to the same class of customs as those spring and 
midsummer folk- customs of modern Europe which 
have been described, does not rest for its evidence 
merely on the intrinsic probability of the case. 
Fortunately, we are able to show that gardens of 
Adonis (if we may use the expression in a general 
sense) are still planted, first, by a primitive race at 
their sowing season, and, second, by European 
peasants at midsummer. Amongst the Oraons and 
Mundas of Bengal, when the time comes for planting- 
out the rice which has been grown in seed-beds, a 
party of young people of both sexes go to the forest 
and cut a young Karma tree, or the branch of one. 
Bearing it in triumph they return dancing, singing. 
and beating drums, and plant it in the middle of the 
village dancing-ground. A sacrifice is offered to the 
tree ; and next morning the youth of both sexes, 
linked arm-in-arm, dance in a great circle round the 
Karma tree, which is decked with strips of coloured 
cloth and sham bracelets and necklets of plaited straw. 
As a preparation for the festival, the daughters of the 
head-man of the village cultivate blades of barley in a 
peculiar way. The seed is sown in moist, sandy soil, 
mixed with turmeric, and the blades sprout and unfold 
of a pale yellow or primrose colour. On the day of 

1 A. H. Sayce, op. at. p. 238. 


the festival the girls take up these blades and carry 
them in baskets to the dancing-ground, where, pros- 
trating themselves reverentially, they place some of 
the plants before the Karma tree. Finally, the Karma 
tree is taken away and thrown into a stream or 
tank/ The meaning of planting these barley blades 
and then presenting them to the Karma tree is hardly 
open to question. We have seen that trees are 
supposed to exercise a quickening influence upon the 
growth of crops, and that amongst the very people in 
question — the Mundas or Mundaris — "the grove 
deities are held responsible for the crops." - Therefore, 
when at the season for planting out the rice the 
Mundas bring in a tree and treat it with so much 
respect, their object can only be to foster thereby the 
growth of the rice which is about to be planted out ; 
and the custom of causing barley blades to sprout 
rapidly and then presenting them to the tree must 
be intended to subserve the same purpose, perhaps 
by reminding the tree- spirit of his duty towards the 
crops, and stimulating his activity by this visible 
example of rapid vegetable growth. The throwing of 
the Karma tree into the water is to be interpreted 
as a rain -charm. Whether the barley blades are 
also thrown into the water is not said ; but, if my 
interpretation of the custom is right, probably they 
are so. A distinction between this Bengal custom 
and the Greek rites of Adonis is that in the former the 
tree -spirit appears in his original form as a tree ; 
whereas in the Adonis worship he appears in anthro- 
pomorphic form, represented as a dead man, though 
his vegetable nature is indicated by the gardens of 

1 Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 259. 2 Above, p. 67. 



Adonis, which are, so to say, a secondary manifesta- 
tion of his original power as a tree-spirit. 

In Sardinia the gardens of Adonis are still planted 
in connection with the great midsummer festival which 
bears the name of St. John. At the end of March 
or on the ist of April a young man of the village 
presents himself to a girl and asks her to be his co^nare 
(gossip or sweetheart), offering to be her compare. 
The invitation is considered as an honour by the girl's 
family, and is gladly accepted. At the end of May 
the girl makes a pot of the bark of the cork-tree, fills it 
with earth, and sows a handful of wheat and barley in it. 
The pot being placed in the sun and often watered, the 
corn sprouts rapidly and has a good head by Mid- 
summer Eve (St. John's Eve, 23d June). The pot is 
then called Erine or Neimeri. On St. John's Day the 
young man and the girl, dressed in their best, 
accompanied by a long retinue and preceded by 
children gambolling and frolicking, move in procession 
to a church outside the village. Here they break the 
pot by throwing it against the door of the church. 
Then they sit down in a ring on the grass and eat 
eggs and herbs to the music of flutes. Wine is mixed 
in a cup and passed round, each one drinking as it 
passes. Then they join hands and sing " Sweethearts 
of St. John" {Compare e coma^-e di San Giovaimi) 
over and over again, the flutes playing the while. 
When they tire of singing, they stand up and dance 
gaily in a ring till evening. This is the general 
Sardinian custom. As practised at Ozieri it has some 
special features. In May the pots are made of cork- 
bark and planted with corn, as already described. 
Then on the Eve of St. John the window-sills are 
draped with rich cloths, on which the pots are placed, 


adorned with crimson and blue silk and ribbons of 
various colours. On each of the pots they used 
formerly to place a statuette or cloth doll dressed as 
a woman, or a Priapus-like figure made of paste ; but 
this custom, rigorously forbidden by the Church, has 
fallen into disuse. The village swains go about in 
a troop to look at the pots and their decorations and 
to wait for the girls, who assemble on the public square 
to celebrate the festival. Here a great bonfire is 
kindled, round which they dance and make merry. 
Those who wish to be " Sweethearts of St. John" act 
as follows. The young man stands on one side of the 
bonfire and the girl on the other, and they, in a 
manner, join hands by each grasping one end of a long 
stick, which they pass three times backwards and 
forwards across the fire, thus thrusting their hands 
thrice rapidly into the flames. This seals their 
relationship to each other. Dancing and music go 
on till late at night.^ The correspondence of these 
Sardinian pots of grain to the gardens of Adonis seems 
complete, and the images formerly placed in them 
answer to the images of Adonis which accompanied 
his gardens. 

This Sardinian custom is one of those midsummer 
customs, once celebrated in many parts of Europe, 
a chief feature of which is the great bonfire round 
which people dance and over which they leap. 
Examples of these customs have already been cited 
from Sweden and Bohemia." These examples suffici- 

1 Antonio Bresciani, Z>«Vfj/?<wzV(;//' " Usi dei contadini della Sardegna/' 

isola di Sardegna cotnparati cogli Archivio per lo studio delle tradizioni 

antichissimi popoli orientali (Rome and popolari, vii. (1888) p. 469 sq. Tennant 

Turin, 1866), p. 427 sq.; R. Tennant, says that the pots are kept in a dark 

Sardinia and its Resources (Rome and warm place, and that the children leap 

London, 1885), p. 187; S. Gabriele, across the fire. ^ See ch. i. p. 78 5^/. 


ently prove the connection of the midsummer bonfire 
with vegetation ; for both in Sweden and Bohemia an 
essential part of the festival is the raising of a May- 
pole or Midsummer-tree, which in Bohemia is burned 
in the bonfire. Again, in the Russian midsummer 
ceremony cited above,^ the straw figure of Kupalo, 
the representative of vegetation, is placed beside a 
May - pole or Midsummer - tree and then carried to 
and fro across a bonfire, Kupalo is here represented 
in duplicate, in tree - form by the Midsummer- tree, 
and in anthropomorphic form by the straw effigy, just 
as Adonis was represented both by an image and a 
garden of Adonis ; and the duplicate representatives 
of Kupalo, like those of Adonis, are finally cast into 
water. In the Sardinian custom the Gossips or 
Sweethearts of St. John probably correspond to the 
Lord and Lady or King and Queen of May. In the 
province of Blekinge (Sweden), part of the midsummer 
festival is the election of a Midsummer Bride, who 
chooses her bridegroom ; a collection is made for the 
pair, who for the time being are looked upon as man 
and wife." Such Midsummer pairs are probably, like 
the May pairs, representatives of the spirit of vegeta- 
tion in its reproductive capacity ; they represent in 
flesh and blood what the images of Siva and Parvati 
in the Indian ceremony, and the images of Adonis and 
Aphrodite in the Alexandrian ceremony, represented 
in effigy. The reason why ceremonies whose aim is 
to foster the growth of vegetation should thus be 
associated with bonfires ; why in particular the re- 
presentative of vegetation should be burned in tree- 
form or passed across the fire in effigy or in the form 
of a living couple, will be explained later on. Here 

1 p. 272. 2 L_ Lloyd, Feasant Life in Sweden, p. 257. 


It is enough to have proved the fact of such association 
and therefore to have obviated the objection which 
might have been raised to my interpretation of the 
Sardinian custom, on the ground that the bonfires 
have nothing to do with vegetation. One more piece 
of evidence may here be given to prove the contrary. 
In some parts of Germany young men and girls leap 
over midsummer bonfires for the express purpose of 
making the hemp or flax grow tall.^ We may, there- 
fore, assume that in the Sardinian custom the blades 
of wheat and barley which are forced on in pots for the 
midsummer festival, and which correspond so closely 
to the gardens of Adonis, form one of those widely- 
spread midsummer ceremonies, the original object of 
which was to promote the growth of vegetation, and 
especially of the crops. But as, by an easy extension 
of ideas, the spirit of vegetation was believed to exercise 
a beneficent influence over human as well as animal 
life, the gardens of Adonis would be supposed, like 
the May-trees or May-boughs, to bring good luck to 
the family or to the individual who planted them ; 
and even after the idea had been abandoned that they 
operated actively to bring good luck, omens might still 
be drawn from them as to the good or bad fortune 
of families or individuals. It is thus that magic 
dwindles into divination. Accordingly we find modes 
of divination practised at midsummer which resemble 
more or less closely the gardens of Adonis. Thus an 
anonymous Italian writer of the sixteenth century has 
recorded that it was customary to sow barley and 
wheat a few days before the festival of St. John 
(Midsummer Day) and also before that of St. Vitus ; 
and it was believed that the person for whom they were 

1 W. Mannhardt, Bawnkultus, p. 464 ; Leoprechting, Aus dem Lechrain, p. 183. 


sown would be fortunate and get a good husband or a 
good wife, if the grain sprouted well ; but if they 
sprouted ill, he or she would be unlucky.^ In various 
parts of Italy and all over Sicily it is still customary to 
put plants in water or in earth on the Eve of St. John, 
and from the manner in which they are found to be 
blooming or fading on St. John's Day omens are 
drawn, especially as to fortune in love. Amongst 
the plants used for this purpose are Cittid di S. 
Guivanni (St. John's wort?) and nettles." In Prussia 
two hundred years ago the farmers used to send 
out their servants, especially their maids, to gather 
St. John's wort on Midsummer Eve or Midsummer 
Day (St. John's Day). When they had fetched 
it, the farmer took as many plants as there were 
persons and stuck them in the wall or between the 
beams ; and it was thought that the person whose 
plant did not bloom would soon fall sick or die. The 
rest of the plants were tied in a bundle, fastened to the 
end of a pole, and set up at the gate or wherever the 
corn would be brought in at the next harvest. This 
bundle was called Ktipole ; the ceremony was known 
as Kupole's festival ; and at it the farmer prayed for 
a good crop of hay, etc." This Prussian custom is 
particularly notable, inasmuch as it strongly confirms 
the opinion expressed above that Kupalo (doubtless 
identical with Kupole) was originally a deity of vege- 
tation.^ For here Kupalo is represented by a bundle 

^ G. Pitre, Spettacoli e fesfc popolaj'i for a similar purpose, but the mode in 

siciliane, p. 296 st]. which the omens are drawn is some- 

- G.Viixh, op. cit.'p. 2,02 sq.; Antonio \vh2.\.di?ierer\\.,Arc/uvioperlostudiodel/e 

deNino, Usi Abrtizzesi,\. 55 sq.-, Guber- tradizioni popolari, vii. (1888) p. 128^1;'. 
natis, t^«'iV«<2za//, p. 39 j-^. Q^^. Archi- '^ '^■<!A.'i\\z.\x?,Yx^&\.ox\\x'!,,DeliciaePr2ts- 

vio per lo studio delle tradizioni popolari, sicac, herausgegeben von Dr. W. Pier- 

i. 135. At Smyrna a blossom of the son (Berlin, 1S71), p. 56. 
agnns castas is used on St. John's Day ^ See p. 274 sq. 


of plants specially associated with midsummer in 
folk -custom ; and her influence over vegetation is 
plainly signified by placing her plant -formed repre- 
sentative over the place where the harvest is brought 
in, as well as by the prayers for a good crop which 
are uttered on the occasion. A fresh argument is 
thus supplied in support of the conclusion that the 
Death, whose analogy to Kupalo, Yarilo, etc., has 
been shown, was originally a personification of vegeta- 
tion, more especially of vegetation as dying or dead in 
winter. Further, my interpretation of the gardens of 
Adonis is confirmed by finding that in this Prussian 
custom the very same kind of plants are used to form 
the gardens of Adonis (as we may call them) and 
the image of the deity. Nothing could set in a 
stronger light the truth of the view that the gardens 
of Adonis are merely another manifestation of the 
god himself. 

The last example of the gardens of Adonis which 
I shall cite is the following. At the approach 
of Easter, Sicilian women sow wheat, lentils, and 
canary-seed in plates, which are kept in the dark and 
watered every two days. The plants soon shoot up ; 
the stalks are tied together with red ribbons, and the 
plates containing them are placed on the sepulchres 
which, with effigies of the dead Christ, are made up 
in Roman Catholic and Greek churches on Good 
Friday,^ just as the gardens of Adonis were placed on 
the grave of the dead Adonis.^ The whole custom — 
sepulchres as well as plates of sprouting grain — is 

1 G. Pitre, Speftacoli e feste popolari ceremonies in the Greek Church, see 

sicilianc, p. 211. A similar custom K. A. Arnold, From the Levant (London, 

is observed at Cosenza in Calabria. 1868), i. 251 sqq. 

Vincenzo Dorsa, La tradizione greco- ^ ktjttous uiffiow iirLracpiovs 'AdibviSi, 

latina, etc., p. 50. For the Easter Eustathius on Homer, Od. xi. 590. 

296 A TTIS 

probably nothing but a continuation,, under a different 
name, of the Adonis worship. 

The next of those gods, whose supposed death and 
resurrection struck such deep roots into the reHgious 
faith and ritual of Western Asia, is Attis. He was to 
Phrygia what Adonis was to Syria. Like Adonis, he 
appears to have been a god of vegetation, and his 
death and resurrection were annually mourned and 
rejoiced over at a festival in spring. The legends and 
rites of the two gods were so much alike that the 
ancients themselves sometimes identified them/ Attis 
was said to have been a fair youth who was beloved 
by the great Phrygian goddess Cybele. Two different 
accounts of his death were current. Accordinor to the 
one, he was killed by a boar, like Adonis. According 
to the other, he mutilated himself under a pine-tree, 
and died from the effusion of blood. The latter is said 
to have been the local story told by the people of 
Pessinus, a great centre of Cybele worship, and the 
whole legend of which it forms a part is stamped with 
a character of rudeness and savagery that speaks 
strongly for its antiquity.^ But the genuineness of 
the other story seems also vouched for by the fact 
that his worshippers, especially the people of Pes- 

1 Hippolytus, Refut. o?nn. haeres. 8. The other story is told by Arno- 

V. 9, p. 1 68, ed. Duncker and bius [Adversus nattones, v. 5 sqq.) on 

Schneidewin ; Socrates, Hist. Eaies. the authority of Timotheus, an other- 

iii. 23, g§ 51 sqq. p. 204. wise unknown writer, who professed to 

derive it ex recotiditis antiqiiitatiim 

^ That Attis was killed by a boar libris et ex ititiniis niysteriis. It is 

was stated by Hermesianax, an elegiac obviously identical with the account 

poetof the fourth century B.C. (Pausanias, which Pausanias mentions (/.r.) as the 

vii. 17) ; cp. Schol. on Nicander, Alex. story current in Pessinus. 

A TTIS 297 

sinus, abstained from eating swine. ^ After his death 
Attis is said to have been changed into a pine- 
tree." The ceremonies observed at his festival are 
not very fully known, but their general order appears 
to have been as follows.^ At the spring equinox 
(22d March) a pine-tree was cut in the woods and 
brought into the sanctuary of Cybele, where it was 
treated as a divinity. It was adorned with woollen 
bands and wreaths of violets, for violets were said to 
have sprung from the blood of Attis, as anemones 
from the blood of Adonis ; and the effigy of a young 
man was attached to the middle of the tree."* On 
the second day (23d March) the chief ceremony 
seems to have been a blowing of trumpets.^ The 
third day (24th March) was known as the Day of 
Blood : the high priest drew blood from his arms 
and presented it as an offering.'' It was perhaps 
on this day or night that the mourning for Attis took 
place over an effigy, which was afterwards solemnly 
buried.^ The fourth day (25th March) was the 
Festival of Joy {Hilaria), at which the resurrection of 
Attis was probably celebrated — at least the celebration 
of his resurrection seems to have followed closely upon 

1 Pausanias, vii. 17; Julian, Orat. " Trebellius PoUio, Claudius, 4; 
V. 177 B. Tertullian, Apologet. 25. For other 

2 Ovid, Mctam. x. 103 s,m. references, see Marquardt, /.c. 

" Diodorus, iii. 59 ; Firmicus 

3 On the festival see especially Mar- ^j^ternus, £>e err. profan. rdig. 3 ; 
G^yxz.xA\, Romische Staatsvenvaltung,\\\.'^ Arnobius, Advers. nat. v. 16; Schol. 
370 sqq. ; Daremberg et Saglio, ^^ Nicander, Alex. 8 ; Servius on 
Didionnaire des Antiqmtes grecques virgil, ^e«. ix. 1 16; Arrian, Tactica, 
et romaincs, i. p. 1685 sq. (article -p^e ceremony described in Fir- 
" Cybele ") ; W. Mannhardt, Atitike ^^^^^^ Maternus, c. 22 (node quadam 
IVald-tmd Feldkulte, p. 291 sqq.; id., simulacrum in lecfica supinum ponitur 
Baumkultus, p. 572 sqq. ^^ ^^^ numeros digest is fietibus plan- 

* Julian, Orat. v. 16S c ; Joannes gitiir. . . . Idolum scpelis. Idolum 

l^yAus, De?nensibtcs,\v. 41; Arnobius, plangis, etc.), may very well be the 

Advers. nationes, v. cc. 7, 16 sq.; Fir- mourning and funeral rites of Attis, to 

micus Maternus, De crrore profan. which he had more briefly referred in 

relig. 27. '•' Juhan, I.e. and 169 C. c. 3. 


that of his death. ^ The Roman festival closed on 
27th March with a procession to the brook Almo, in 
which the bullock-cart of the goddess, her image, and 
other sacred objects were bathed. But this bath of the 
goddess is known to have also formed part of her 
festival in her Asiatic home. On returning from the 
water the cart and oxen were strewn with fresh spring 

The original character of Attis as a tree-spirit is 
brought out plainly by the part which the pine-tree 
plays in his legend and ritual. The story that he was 
a human being transformed into a pine-tree is only one 
of those transparent attempts at rationalising the old 
beliefs which meet us so frequently in mythology. 
His tree origin is further attested by the story that he 
was born of a virgin, who conceived by putting in her 
bosom a ripe almond or pomegranate.^ The bringing in 
of the pine-tree from the wood, decked with violets 
and woollen bands, corresponds to bringing in the 
May-tree or Summer-tree in modern folk-custom ; 
and the efiigy which was attached to the pine-tree was 
only a duplicate representative of the tree-spirit or 

1 On the Hilaria see Macrobius, Damascius, I.e. t7)v tGiv iXapiuv KaXov- 

Safurtt. I. 21, 10; Julian, Oral. v. iiivrjv iopT-qv ' oirep iSrjXov rrjv e^ adov 

168 D, 169 D ; Damascius, Vita yeyovvlav Tj/j-uif auTTjpiav. This last 

Isidori, in Photius, p. 345 A 5 sqq. ed. passage, compared with the formula in 

Bekker. On the resurrection, see Firmicus Maternus, c. 22 

Firmicus Maternus, 3, reginae suae a - / 

amorem [Phryges] cum luctibus annuis ^P^^^e^ f^^<^ra^ jov deov aeao^f^euoV 

consecrarunt, et ut satis iratae viulieri "'^''' ^^P ^^'^ '" '^°^'^'' <^'^rvpia. 

facerent aut tit paenitenti solacmm makes it probable that the ceremony 

quaererent, quern paulo ajtte sepeliei-ant described by Firmicus, c. 22, is the 

revixisse jactarunt. . . . Mortem ipsius resurrection of Attis. 

\i.e. of Attis] dicuiit, quod semina " Ovid, Fast. iv. 337 sqq. ; Am- 

collecta conduutur, vitam rursus quod mianus Marcellinus, xxiii. 3. For other 

jacta setnina amuiis vicibus t recoil- references see Marquardt and Mann- 

diintur\7'enascuntur, C. Halm]. Again hardt, 

cp. id. 22, Idolum sepelis. Idohuii ^ Pausanias, vii. 1 7 ; Arnobius, Adv. 

plangis, idolum de sepultura profcris, et nationes, v. 6. ; cp. Hippolytus, Refut. 

miser cum haec feceris gaudes ; and omn. haeres. v. 9, pp. 166, 168. 

A TTIS 299 

Attis. At what point of the ceremonies the violets 
and the effigy were attached to the tree is not said, 
but we should assume this to be done after the 
mimic death and burial of Attis. The fastening of his 
effigy to the tree would then be a representation of 
his coming to life again in tree -form, just as the 
placing of the shirt of the effigy of Death upon a 
tree represents the revival of the spirit of vegetation in 
a new form.^ After being attached to the tree, the 
effigy was kept for a year and then burned.- We have 
seen that this was apparently sometimes done with the 
May-pole ; ^ and we shall see presently that the effigy 
of the corn-spirit, made at harvest, is often preserved 
till it is replaced by a new effigy at next year's harvest. 
The original intention of thus preserving the effigy for 
a year and then replacing it by a new one was 
doubtless to maintain the spirit of vegetation in fresh 
and vigorous life. The bathing of the image of 
Cybele was probably a rain-charm, like the throwing 
of the effigies of Death and of Adonis into the 
water. Like tree -spirits in general, Attis appears to 
have been conceived as exercising power over the 
growth of corn, or even to have been identified with the 
corn. One of his epithets was " very fruitful ;" he was 
addressed as the " reaped green (or yellow) ear of corn," 
and the story of his sufferings, death, and resurrection 
was interpreted as the ripe grain wounded by the 
reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to life again 
when sown in the ground.^ His worshippers abstained 
from eating seeds and the roots of vegetables,^ just 
as at the Adonis ceremonies women abstained from 

1 See above, p. 264 sq. * Hippolytus, Ref. onin. haeres. v. 

cc. 8, 9, pp. 162, 168 ; Firmicus 
- Firmicus Maternus, 27. Maternus, De errore p-of. relig. 3. 

3 Above, p. 81. '•' Julian, Orat. v. 174 A B. 


eating corn ground in a mill. Such acts would 
probably have been esteemed a sacrilegious partaking 
of the life or of the bruised and broken body of the 

From inscriptions it appears that both at Pessinus 
and Rome the high priest of Cybele was regularly 
called Attis.^ It is therefore a reasonable conjecture 
that the high priest played the part of the legendary 
Attis at the annual festival- We have seen that on 
the Day of Blood he drew blood from his arms, and 
this may have been an imitation of the self-inflicted 
death of Attis under the pine-tree. It is not incon- 
sistent with this supposition that Attis was also repre- 
sented at these ceremonies by an effigy ; for we have 
already had cases in which the divine being is first 
represented by a living person and afterwards by an 
effigy, which is then burned or otherwise destroyed.^ 
Perhaps we may go a step farther and conjecture that 
this mimic killing of the priest (if it was such), accom- 
panied by a real effusion of his blood, was in Phrygia, 
as it has been elsewhere, a substitute for a human 
sacrifice which in earlier times was actually offered. 
Professor W. M. Ramsay, whose authority on all 
questions relating to Phrygia no one will dispute, is of 
opinion that at these Phrygian ceremonies "the repre- 
sentative of the god was probably slain each year by a 
cruel death, just as the god himself died." ^ We know 
from Strabo '^ that the priests of Pessinus were at one 
time potentates as well as priests ; they may, there- 

1 Duncker, Geschichte des Alter- in Anual. d. Inst. 1S56, p. no, 
thums,^ i. 456, note 4 ; Roscher, referred to in Roscher, I.e. 
Ausfiihrliches Lexikon d. grieeh. 11. ^ See pp. 84, 231. 

ro??i. Mythologie, i. c. 724. Cp. ^ Axi\c\Q^''V\\ryg\a.,''' m Encyclopaedia 

Polybius, xxii. 20 (18). Britanuica, ninth ed. xviii. S53. 

2 The conjecture is that of Henzen ^ xii. 5,3. 

OSIRIS ■ 301 

fore, have belonged to that class of divine kings or 
popes whose duty it was to die each year for their 
people and the world. As a god of vegetation, 
annually slain, the representative of Attis would be 
parallel to the Wild Man, the King, etc., of north 
European folk -custom, and to the Italian priest of 

§ 6. — Osiris 

There seem to be some grounds for believing that 
Osiris, the great god of ancient Egypt, was one of 
those personifications of vegetation, whose annual 
death and resurrection have been celebrated in so 
many lands. But as the chief of the gods he appears 
to have absorbed the attributes of other deities, so that 
his character and rites present a complex of hetero- 
geneous elements which, with the scanty evidence at 
our disposal, it is hardly possible to sort out. It may 
be worth while, however, to put together some of the 
facts which lend support to the view that Osiris 
or at least one of the deities out of whom he was 
compounded was a god of vegetation, analogous to 
Adonis and Attis. 

The outline of his myth is as follows.^ Osiris was 
the son of the earth-god Qeb (or Seb, as the name is 
sometimes transliterated).^ Reigning as a king on earth, 
he reclaimed the Egyptians from savagery, gave them 

1 The myth, in a connected form, is - Le Page Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, 

only known from Plutarch, Isis et 1879, p. no; Brugsch, Religion und 

Osiris, cc. 13-19. Some additional Mytlwlogie der alteti Aegypter, p. 

details, recovered from Egyptian sources, 614 ; Ad. Erman, I.e. ; Ed. Meyer, Ge- 

will be found in the work of Adolf scliichte des Altertunis, i. § 56 sq. 
Erman, Aegypten und aegyptisches Leben 
im Altertum, p. 365 sqq. 


laws, and taught them to worship the gods. Before his 
time the Egyptians had been cannibals. But Isis, the 
sister and wife of Osiris, discovered wheat and barley 
growing wild, and Osiris introduced the cultivation of 
these grains amongst his people, who forthwith aban- 
doned cannibalism and took kindly to a corn diet.^ 
Afterwards Osiris travelled over the world diffusing 
the blessings of civilisation wherever he went. But on 
his return his brother Set (whom the Greeks called 
Typhon), with seventy-two others, plotted against him, 
and having inveigled him into a beautifully decorated 
coffer, they nailed it down on him, soldered it fast 
with molten lead, and flung it into the Nile. It floated 
down to the sea. This happened on the 1 7th day of 
the month Athyr. Isis put on mourning, and wandered 
disconsolately up and down seeking the body, till at last 
she found it at Byblus, on the Syrian coast, whither it 
had drifted with the waves. An erica tree had shot up 
and enfolded the coffer within its stem, and the King 
of Byblus, admiring the fine growth of the tree, had 
caused it to be cut down and converted into a pillar of 
his palace. From him Isis obtained leave to open the 
trunk of the tree, and having taken out the coffer, she 
carried it away with her. But she left it to visit her 
son Horus at Butus in the Delta, and Typhon found 
the coffer as he was hunting a boar by the light of a 
full moon.- He recognised the body of Osiris, rent it 
into fourteen pieces, and scattered them abroad. Isis 
sailed up and down the marshes in a papyrus boat 
seeking the fragments, and as she found each she 
buried it. Hence many graves of Osiris were shown 
in Egypt. Others said that Isis left an effigy of Osiris 

1 Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 13 ; Diodorus, i. 14 ; Tibullus, i. 7, 29 sqq. 
- Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 8. 


in every city, pretending it was his body, in order that 
Osiris might be worshipped in many places, and to 
prevent Typhon from discovering the real corpse. 
Afterwards her son Horus fought against Typhon, 
conquered him, and bound him fast. But Isis, to 
whom he had been delivered, loosed his bonds and let 
him go. This angered Horus, and he pulled the 
crown from his mother's head ; but Hermes replaced 
it with a helmet made in the shape of a cow's head. 
Typhon was subsequently defeated in two other battles. 
The rest of the myth included the dismemberment of 
Horus and the beheading of Isis. 

So much for the myth of Osiris. Of the annual 
rites with which his death and burial were celebrated 
we unfortunately know very little. The mourning 
lasted five days,^ from the 8th to the 12th of the 
month Athyr.'^ The ceremonies began with the 
"earth -ploughing," that is, with the opening of the 
field labours, when the waters of the Nile are sink- 
ing. The other rites included the search for the 
mangled body of Osiris, the rejoicings at its dis- 
covery, and its solemn burial. The burial took place 
on the nth of November, and was accompanied 
by the recitation of lamentations from the liturgical 
books. These lamentations, of which several copies 
have been discovered in modern times, were put in the 

1 So Brugsch, op. cit. p. 617. Plu- therefore, that, when the calendar be- 
tarch, op. cit. 39, says four days, begin- came fixed, Athyr fell in November, 
ning with the 17th of the month Athyr. no inference can be drawn as to the 

2 In the Alexandrian year the month date at which the death of Osiris was 
Athyr corresponded to November. originally celebrated. It is thus per- 
But as the old Egyptian year was fectly possible that it may have been 
vague, that is, made no use of intercala- originally a harvest festival, though the 
tion, the astronomical date of each Egyptian harvest falls, not in November, 
festival varied from year to year, till it but in April ; cp. Selden, De diis Syris, 
had passed through the whole cycle of p. 335 sq.; Parthey on Plutarch, Isis et 

the astronomical year. From the fact, Osiris, c. 39. 


mouth of Isis and Nephthys, sisters of Osiris. " In 
form and substance," says Brugsch, " they vividly 
recall the dirges chanted at the Adonis' rites over the 
dead god."^ Next day was the joyous festival of 
Sokari, that being the name under which the hawk- 
headed Osiris of Memphis was invoked. The solemn 
processions of priests which on this day wound round 
the temples with all the pomp of banners, images, and 
sacred emblems, were amongst the most stately 
pageants that ancient Egypt could show. The whole 
festival ended on the i6th of November with a special 
rite called the erection of the Tatic, Tat, or Ded pillar.' 
This pillar appears from the monuments to have been 
a column with cross bars at the top, like the yards of a 
mast, or more exactly like the superposed capitals of a 
pillar.^ On a Theban tomb the king himself, assisted 
by his relations and a priest, is represented hauling at 
the ropes by which the pillar is being raised. The 
pillar was interpreted, at least in later Egyptian 
theology, as the backbone of Osiris. It might very 
well be a conventional representation of a tree stripped 
of its leaves; and if Osiris was a tree -spirit, the bare 
trunk and branches of a tree might naturally be 
described as his backbone. The erection of the 
column would then be, as Erman interprets it, a repre- 
sentation of the resurrection of Osiris, which, as we 
learn from Plutarch, appears to have been celebrated 
at his mysteries.^ Perhaps the ceremony which 

1 Brugsch, I.e. For a specimen of - Brugsch, ^/. «V. p. 6 1 7 517. ; Erman, 

these lamentations see Brugsch, op. cit. Aegypten zmd aegyptisches Leben im 

p. 631 sq.'. Records of the Past, ii. 119 Altertum, p. 377 sq. 

sqq. For the annual ceremonies of ^ Erman, I.e.; Wilkinson, Manners 

finding and burying Osiris, see also and Cnstonis of the Ancient Egyptians 

Firmicus Maternus, De errore pro- (London, 1878), iii. 68, 82 ; Tiele, 

fananiin religionicm, 2 § 3; Servius History of the Egyptian Religion, t^. ^6. 

on Virgil, Aen. iv. 609. * Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 35. oijlo- 



Plutarch describes as taking place on the third day of 
the festival (the 19th day of the month Athyr) may 
also have referred to the resurrection. He says that 
on that day the priests carried the sacred ark down to 
the sea. Within the ark was a golden casket, into 
which drinking-water was poured. A shout then went 
up that Osiris was found. Then some mould was 
mixed with water, and out of the paste thus formed a 
crescent-shaped image was fashioned, which was then 
dressed in robes and adorned.^ 

The general similarity of the myth and ritual of 
Osiris to those of Adonis and Attis is obvious. In all 
three cases we see a god whose untimely and violent 
death is mourned by a loving goddess and annually 
celebrated by their worshippers. The character of 
Osiris as a deity of vegetation is brought out by the 
legend that he was the first to teach men the use of 
corn, and by the fact that his annual festival began 
with ploughing the earth. He is said also to have 
introduced the cultivation of the vine." In one of 
the chambers dedicated to Osiris in the great temple 
of Isis at Philae the dead body of Osiris is repre- 
sented with stalks of corn springing from it, and a 
priest is watering the stalks from a pitcher which he 
holds in his hand. The accompanying inscription sets 
forth that " This is the form of him whom one may 
not name, Osiris of the mysteries, who springs from 
the returning waters."^ It would seem impossible to 
devise a more graphic way of representing Osiris as 
a personification of the corn ; while the inscription 
proves that this personification was the kernel of the 

Xo7et 5^ /cat rd TiraviKa Kal vv^ reXeia i Plutarch, Isis ct Osiris, 39. 

rohXe-yofxAuoLS 'OaLpidos dLaffira(Tfji.ois Kal o Tibi U s i 7 i-" w; 

reus dva^iwaeai Kai TraXiyyiveaiai;, 
ofxoiws d^ Kal Tarrepl rds racpds. ^ Brugsch, oj'. cit. p. 62 1. 



mysteries of the god, the innermost secret that was 
only revealed to the initiated. In estimating the 
mythical character of Osiris very great weight must 
be given to this monument. The legend that his 
mangled remains were scattered up and down the 
land may be a mythical way of expressing either the 
sowing or the winnowing of the grain. The latter 
interpretation is supported by the story that I sis placed 
the severed limbs of Osiris on a corn-sieve.^ Or the 
legend may be a reminiscence of the custom of slaying 
a human victim (probably considered as a representa- 
tive of the corn-spirit) and distributing his flesh or 
scattering his ashes over the fields to fertilise them. 
We have already seen that in modern Europe the 
figure of " Death " is sometimes torn in pieces, and that 
the fragments are then buried in the fields to make 
the crops grow well." Later on we shall meet with 
examples of human victims being treated in the same 
way. With regard to the ancient Egyptians, we have 
it on the authority of Manetho that they used to burn 
red-haired men and scatter their ashes with winnowino-- 


fans." That this custom was not, as might perhaps 
have been supposed, a mere way of wreaking their 
spite on foreigners, amongst whom rather than 
amongst the native Egyptians red-haired people 
would generally be found, appears from the fact that 
the oxen which were sacrificed had also to be red ; a 
siilgle black or white hair found on a beast would have 
disqualified it for the sacrifice.* The red hair of the 
human victims was thus probably essential ; the fact 
that they were generally foreigners was only accidental. 

1 Servius on Virgil, Georg. i. 1 66. ^ Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 73, cp. ■^t,; 

DiodoiTiS, i. 88. 
- Above, p. 267. * Plutarch, op. cit. 31 ; Herodotus, 

ii. 38. 


If, as I conjecture, these human sacrifices were 
intended to promote the growth of the crops — and 
the zvinnowing of their ashes seems to support this 
view — red-haired victims were perhaps selected as 
best fitted to represent the spirit of the golden grain. 
For when a god is represented by a living person, it 
is natural that the human representative should be 
chosen on the ground of his supposed resemblance to 
the god. Hence the ancient Mexicans, conceiving 
the maize as a personal being who went through the 
whole course of life between seed-time and harvest, 
sacrificed new-born babes when the maize was sown, 
older children when it had sprouted, and so on till it 
was fully ripe, when they sacrificed old men.^ A name 
for Osiris was the "crop" or "harvest";^ and the 
ancients sometimes explained him as a personification 
of the corn.^ 

But Osiris was not only a corn-spirit ; he was also 
a tree-spirit, and this was probably his original char- 
acter ; for, as we have already observed, the corn-spirit 
seems to be only an extension of the older tree-spirit. 
His character as a tree -spirit was represented very 
graphically in a ceremony described by Firmicus 
Maternus.* A pine-tree was cut down, the centre 
was hollowed out, and with the wood thus excavated 
an imao-e of Osiris was made, which was then " buried " 


1 Hen-era, quoted by Bastian, Cul- pinqiiantc hicmc scminantur, hauc 
turldiider dcs alien Amerika, ii. 639. volimt esse mortem Osiridis, cum fncges 

2 Lefebure, Le mythe Osin'eii (Paris, recondunt, inventionem vera, cum fruges 
1874-75), p. 188. geniiali terme fomeiito conceptae annua 

3 Firmicus Maternus, De errore rursus coeperint proc7-eatione generari ; 
profanarum religionum, 2, § 6, de- Eusebius, /'ra^/ar. Evatig.m. 11,31, 
fensores eorum vohmt addere pkysuam 6 di "Ocrtpts Trap' M-yvirTlois ttjv 

rationem,frugumseminaOsiritndicentes Trapia-TT]<T(. 5vvafj.iv, t)v dp-qvois airofieiklff- 

esse ; Isim terram, Tyfonetn caloreiii : aovrai eU yrjv d(pavi^ofM^vrjv ev ti^ fftropij}, 

et quia maturatae fruges calore ad vitam ^al v(p' rfp-Giv KaTava\i.aK0fi€V7]v et's ras 

hominum coHigutttur et divisae a terrae Tpo(pa.s. 
consortia separantur et rursus adpro- 4 op. cit. 27, § i. 


in the hollow of the tree. Here, again, it is hard to 
imagine how the conception of a tree as tenanted by a 
personal being could be more plainly expressed. The 
image of Osiris thus made was kept for a year and 
then burned, exactly as was done with the image of 
Attis which was attached to the pine-tree. The 
ceremony of cutting the tree, as described by Firmicus 
Maternus, appears to be alluded to by Plutarch.^ It 
was probably the ritual counterpart of the mythical 
discovery of the body of Osiris enclosed in the erica 
tree. We may conjecture that the erection of the 
Talu pillar at the close of the annual festival of Osiris- 
was identical with the ceremony described by Firmicus; 
it is to be noted that in the myth the erica tree formed 
a pillar in the King's house. Like the similar custom 
of cutting a pine-tree and fastening an image to it in 
the rites of Attis, the ceremony perhaps belonged to 
that class of customs of which the bringing in the 
May -pole is among the most familiar. As to the 
pine-tree in particular, at Denderah the tree of Osiris 
is a conifer, and the coffer containing the body of 
Osiris is here represented as enclosed within the tree.^ 
A pine-cone is often represented on the monuments as 
offered to Osiris, and a MS. of the Louvre speaks of 
the cedar as sprung from Osiris.^ The sycamore and 
the tamarisk are also his trees. In inscriptions he is 
spoken of as residing in them ;^ and his mother Nut is 
frequently represented in a sycamore.*^ In a sepulchre 

^ Isis et Osiris, 2i, alvQi di T0fX7)v 194, 198, referring to Mariette, Den- 

^v\ov Koi crx^'^'-^ Xivov Kal xods x^OMfc- di'rah, iv. 66 and 72. 

Sid t6 TToXXa rQiv ixvariKCiv avafxeiux^^o-i- * Lefebure, op. cit. pp. 195, 197. 

Toirrois. Again, c. 42, rh de ^vXou ev ° Birch, in Wilkinson's Alanncrs and 

Ta'is Keyo/j.ifais'OffipLdosTacpa'LST^IUivopres Customs of the Ancient Egyptians 

KaraaKivd^ovaL \dpvaKa fXTifoeioij. (London, 1S78), iii. 84. 

2 See above, p. 304. 

•"* Lefebure, Le tnythe Osi>-ien, pp. 56, 60. 

Wilkinson, op. cit. iii. 63 s<j. ; Ed. 
Meyer, Geschiclite des Altcrthuins, i. §§ 


at How (Diospolis Parva) a tamarisk is represented 
overshadowing the coffer of Osiris ; and in the series 
of sculptures which represent the mystic history of 
Osiris in the great temple of I sis at Philae, a tamarisk 
is depicted with two men pouring water on it. The 
inscription on this last monument leaves no doubt, 
says Brugsch, that the verdure of the earth is believed 
to be connected with the verdure of the tree, and that 
the sculpture refers to the grave of Osiris at Philae, of 
which Plutarch says that it was overshadowed by a 
met/tide plant, taller than any olive-tree. This sculp- 
ture, it may be observed, occurs in the same chamber 
in which Osiris is represented as a corpse with ears of 
corn sprouting from him.^ In inscriptions Osiris is 
referred to as "the one in the tree," "the solitary one 
in the acacia," etc.^ On the monuments he sometimes 
appears as a mummy covered with a tree or with 
plants.^ It accords with the character of Osiris as a 
tree-spirit that his worshippers were forbidden to injure 
fruit-trees, and with his character as a god of vegeta- 
tion in general that they were not allowed to stop up 
wells of water, which are so important for purposes of 
irrigation in hot southern lands. ^ 

The original meaning of the goddess I sis is still 
more difficult to determine than that of her brother 
and husband Osiris. Her attributes and epithets were 
so numerous that in the hieroglyphics she is called 

1 Wilkinson, op. cit. iii. 349 sq. ; Isis and Demeter agree, is that both 

Brugsch, Religion und Mythologie der goddesses in their search for the loved 

alten Aegypter, p. 621 ; Plutarch, Isis et and lost one are said to have sat down, 

Osiris, 20. In Plutarch I.e. Parthey sad at heart and weary, on the edge of 

proposes to read ixvpiK-qs for /xTj^tSTjs, a well. Hence those who had been 

and this conjecture appears to be initiated at Eleusis were forbidden to 

accepted by Wilkinson, I.e. sit on a well. Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 

- Lefebure.Zew/j'/Z^e 05?>/fc'«, p. 191. 15; Homer, Hymn to Demeter, 

=5 Lefebure, c/. cit. p. 188. 98 sq.; Pausanias, i. 39, i; Apollo- 

^ Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 35. One dorus, i. 5, i ; Nicander, Theriaca, 

of the points in which the myths of 486; Clemens Alex., Frotrept. ii. 20. 


"the many-named," "the thousand-named," and in 
Greek inscriptions "the myriad-named,"^ Tiele con- 
fesses candidly that "it is now impossible to tell 
precisely to what natural phenomena the character 
of Isis at first referred."- Mr. Renouf states that Isis 
was the Dawn,^ but without assigning any reason 
whatever for the identification. There are at least 
some grounds for seeing in her a goddess of corn. 
According to Diodorus, whose authority appears to 
have been the Egyptian historian Manetho, the dis- 
covery of wheat and barley was attributed to Isis, and 
at her festivals stalks of these grains were carried in 
procession to commemorate the boon she had conferred 
on men. Further, at harvest-time, when the Egyptian 
reapers had cut the first stalks, they laid them down 
and beat their breasts, lamenting and calling upon 
Isis.^ Amongst the epithets by which she is designated 
on the inscriptions are "creatress of the green crop," 
" the green one, whose greenness is like the greenness 
of the earth," and " mistress of bread." '" According to 
Brugsch she is " not only the creatress of the fresh ver- 
dure of vegetation which covers the earth, but is actually 
the green corn-field itself, which is personified as a 
goddess." ^' This is confirmed by her epithet Sochit or 
Socket, meaning " a corn-field," a sense which the word 
still retains in Coptic." It is in this character of a 
corn-goddess that the Greeks conceived Isis, for they 

1 Brugsch, Religion ttud Mythologic the quotation (c. 2) with the remark 
der alien Aegypter, p. 645. 7pd0e( 5e /cat rd Trept tovtwv irXarvTepov 

2 C. P. Tiele, History of Egyptian fxkv 6 Mav^Ooos, kir€T€T/j.7]fjL&u3s de 6 
Religion, p. 57. Aiddwpos, which seems to imply that 

3 Hibbert Lectures, 1879, p. ill. Diodorus epitomised Manetho. 
* Diodorus, i. 14. Eusebius {Prae- 5 Brugsch, op. cit. p. 647. 

par at. Evang. ni. 3) quotes from 

Diodorus (i. ir-13) a long passage on Brugsch, op. cit. p. 649. 

the early religion of Egypt, prefacing " Brugsch, I.e. 


identified her with Demeter/ In a Greek epigram 
she is described as " she who has given birth to the 
fruits of the earth," and "the mother of the ears of 
corn," ^ and in a hymn composed in her honour she 
speaks of herself as "queen of the wheat-field," and is 
described as " charged with the care of the fruitful 
furrow's wheat-rich path."^ 

Osiris has been sometimes interpreted as the sun- 
god ; and this view has been held by so many 
distinguished writers in modern times that a few 
words of reply seem called for. If we inquire on 
what evidence Osiris has been identified with the sun 
or the sun-god, it will be found on examination that 
the evidence is minute in quantity and dubious, where 
it is not absolutely worthless, in quality. The diligent 
Jablonski, the first modern scholar to collect and ex- 
amine the testimony of classical writers on Egyptian 
religion, says that it can be shown in many ways that 
Osiris is the sun, and that he could produce a cloud of 
witnesses to prove it, but that it is needless to do so, 
since no learned man is ignorant of the fact."^ Of the 
writers whom he condescends to quote, the only two 
who expressly identify Osiris with the sun are Diodorus 
and Macrobius. The passage in Diodorus runs thus:^ 
"It is said that the aboriginal inhabitants of Egypt, 
looking up to the sky, and smitten with awe and wonder 
at the nature of the universe, supposed that there were 
two gods, eternal and primeval, the sun and the moon, 
of whom they named the sun Osiris and the moon 
Isis." Even if Diodorus's authority for this statement 
is Manetho, as there is some ground for believing,*^ 

1 Herodotus, ii. 59, 156 ; Dio- ^ Orphica, ed. Abel, p. 295 sqij. 
dorus, i. 13, 25, 96; Apollodorus, ii. ^ Jablonski, Pa/itheon Ageyptiornni 
1,3; Tzetz&s, Schol. in Lycophroji. 212. (Frankfurt, 1750), i. 125 sq. 

2 Atttholog. Planud. 264, I. ^ i. 11. ^ See p. 310, )iotc. 


little or no weight can be attached to it. For it is 
plainly a philosophical, and therefore a late, ex- 
planation of the first beginnings of Egyptian religion, 
reminding us of Kant's familiar saying about the starry 
heavens and the moral law rather than of the rude 
traditions of a primitive people. Jablonski's second 
authority, Macrobius, is no better but rather worse. 
For Macrobius was the father of that large family of 
mythologists who resolve all or most gods into the 
sun. According to him Mercury was the sun, Mars 
was the sun, Janus was the sun, Saturn was the sun, 
so was Jupiter, also Nemesis, likewise Pan, etc.^ It 
was, therefore, nearly a matter of course that he should 
identify Osiris with the sun.- But apart from the 
general principle, so frankly enunciated by Professor 
Maspero, that all the gods are the sun (" Comme to2is 
les dieiix, Osiris est le soleir'),^ Macrobius has not 
much cause to show for identifying Osiris in particular 
with the sun. He argues that Osiris must be the sun 
because an eye was one of his symbols. The premise 
is correct,^ but what exactly it has to do with the con- 
clusion is not clear. The opinion that Osiris was the 
sun is also mentioned, but not accepted, by Plutarch,^ 
and it is referred to by Firmicus Maternus.'^ 

Amongst modern Egyptologists, Lepsius, in identi- 
fying Osiris with the sun, appears to rely mainly on the 
passage of Diodorus already quoted. But the monu- 
ments, he adds, also show "that down to a late time 
Osiris was sometimes conceived as Ra. In this quality 
he is named Osiris-Ra even in the ' Book of the Dead,' 

1 See the Saturnalia, bk. i. ■! Wilkinson, Manners and Cusfofns 

- Saturn, i. 21, ii. of the Ancient Egyptians (London, 

'^ Maspero, Histoire ancienne des 1878), iii. 353. 

peuples de P Orient "^ (Paris, 1886), p. ^ Isis et Osiris, 52. 

35- '' De errore pro/an. religionum, 8. 


and Isis is often called 'the royal consort of Ra.'"^ 
That Ra was both the physical sun and the sun-god is 
of course undisputed ; but with every deference for the 
authority of so great a scholar as Lepsius, it may be 
doubted whether such identification can be taken as 
evidence of the original character of Osiris. For the 
religion of ancient Egypt ^ may be described as a con- 
federacy of local cults which, while maintaining against 
each other a certain measure of jealous and even hostile 
independence, were yet constantly subjected to the 
fusing and amalgamating action of political centralisa- 
tion and philosophical reflection. The history of the 
religion appears to have largely consisted of a struggle 
between these opposite forces or tendencies. On the 
one side there was the conservative tendency to pre- 
serve the local cults with all their distinctive features, 
fresh, sharp, and crisp, as they had been handed down 
from an immemorial past. On the other side there 
was the progressive tendency, favoured by the gradual 
fusion of the people under a powerful central govern- 
ment, first to dull the edge of these provincial distinc- 
tions, and finally to break them down completely and 
merge them in a single national religion. The con- 
servative party probably mustered in its ranks the 
great bulk of the people, their prejudices and affections 
being warmly enlisted in favour of the local deity, 
with whose temple and rites they had been familiar 
from childhood ; and the popular aversion to change, 
based on the endearing effect of old association, must 

1 Lepsius, " Ueber den ersten '- The view here taken of the history 

aegyptischen Gotterkreis und seine of Egyptian religion is based on the 

geschichtlich - mythologische Entsteh- sketch in Erman's Aegypten und aegyp- 

img," in Abhandlungen der konig- tisches Leben im Altertum, p. 351 

lichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zii sqq. 
Berlin, 185 1, p. 194 sq. 

314 RA THE SUN- GOD chap. 

have been strongly reinforced by the less disinterested 
opposition of the local clergy, whose material interests 
would necessarily suffer with any decay of their shrines. 
On the other hand the kings, whose power and glory 
rose with the political and ecclesiastical consolidation 
of the nation, were the natural champions of religious 
unity ; and their efforts would be seconded by the 
cultured and reflecting minority, who could hardly fail 
to be shocked by the many barbarous and revolting 
elements in the local rites. As usual in such cases, 
the process of religious unification appears to have 
been largely effected by discovering points of similarity, 
real or imaginary, between various local gods, which 
were thereupon declared to be only different names or 
manifestations of the same god. 

Of the deities who thus acted as centres of attrac- 
tion, absorbing in themselves a multitude of minor 
divinities, by far the most important was the sun-god Ra. 
There appear to have been few gods in Egypt who were 
not at one time or other identified with him. Ammon 
of Thebes, Horus of the East, Horus of Edfu, Chnum 
of Elephantine, Atum of Heliopolis, all were regarded 
as one god, the sun. Even the water-god Sobk, in spite 
of his crocodile shape, did not escape the same fate. 
Indeed one king, Amenhotep IV, undertook to sweep 
away all the old gods at a stroke and replace them by 
a single god, the "great living disc of the sun."^ In 
the hymns composed in his honour, this deity is referred 
to as "the living disc of the sun, besides whom there 
is none other." He is said to have made "the far 
heaven" and "men, beasts, and birds; he strenortheneth 

1 On this attempted revolution in 1851, pp. 196-201 ; Erman, op. cit. 
religion see Lepsius in Verhandl. d. p. 355 sqq, 
konigl. Akad. d. Wissensch. zu Berlin, 


the eyes with his beams, and when he showeth himself, 
all flowers live and grow, the meadows flourish at his 
upgoing and are drunken at his sight, all cattle skip on 
their feet, and the birds that are in the marsh flutter 
for joy." It is he "who bringeth the years, createth 
the months, maketh the days, calculateth the hours, 
the lord of time, by whom men reckon." In his zeal 
for the unity of god, the king commanded to erase the 
names of all other gods from the monuments, and to 
destroy their images. H is rage was particularly directed 
against the god Ammon, whose name and likeness 
were effaced wherever they were found ; even the 
sanctity of the tomb was violated in order to destroy 
the memorials of the hated god. In some of the halls 
of the great temples at Carnac, Luxor, and other 
places, all the names of the gods, with a few chance 
exceptions, were scratched out. In no inscription cut 
in this king's reign was any god mentioned save the 
sun. He even changed his own name, Amenhotep, 
because it was compounded of Ammon, and took 
instead the name of Chuen-'eten, "gleam of the sun's 
disc." His death was followed by a violent reaction. 
The old gods were reinstated in their rank and privi- 
leges ; their names and images were restored ; and 
new temples were built. But all the shrines and 
palaces reared by the late king were thrown down ; 
even the sculptures that referred to him and to his 
god in rock-tombs and on the sides of hills were erased 
or filled up with stucco ; his name appears on no later 
monument, and was carefully omitted from all official 

This attempt of King Amenhotep IV is only an 
extreme example of a tendency which appears to have 
been at work on the religion of Egypt as far back 


as we can trace it. Therefore, to come back to our 
point, in attempting to discover the original character 
of any Egyptian god, no weight can be given to the 
identification of him with other o^ods, least of all with 
the sun-god Ra. Far from helping to follow up the 
trail, these identifications only cross and confuse it. 
The best evidence for the original character of the 
Egyptian gods is to be found in their ritual and myths, 
so far as these are known (which unfortunately is little 
enough), and in the figured representations of them on 
the monuments. It is on evidence drawn from these 
sources that I rely mainly for the interpretation of 
Osiris as a deity of vegetation. 

Amongst a younger generation of scholars, Tiele is 
of opinion that Osiris is the sun, because "in the 
hymns, his accession to the throne of his father is com- 
pared to the rising of the sun, and it is even said of 
him in so many words : ' He glitters on the horizon, he 
sends out rays of light from his double feather and inun- 
dates the world with it, as the sun from out the highest 
heaven.' " ^ By the same token Marie Antoinette must 
have been a goddess of the morning star, because Burke 
saw her at Versailles "just above the horizon, decorat- 
ing and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to 
move in, — glittering like the morning star, full of life, 
and splendour, and joy." If such comparisons prove any- 
thing, they prove that Osiris was not the sun. There 
are always two terms to a comparison ; a thing cannot 
be compared to itself. But Tiele also appeals to the 
monuments. What is his evidence ? Osiris is some- 
times represented by a figure surmounted by " the so- 
called Tat pillar, entirely made up of a kind of superim- 
posed capitals, one of which has a rude face scratched 

1 Tiele, History of the Egyptian Religion, p. 44. 


upon it," Tiele is of opinion that this rude face is " in- 
tended, no doubt, to represent the shining sun."^ If 
every " rude face scratched " is to be taken as a symbol 
of the shining sun, sun - worship will be discovered 
in some unexpected places. But, on the whole, 
Tiele, like Jablonski, prudently keeps to the high 
ground of vague generalities, and the result of his 
occasional descents to the level of facts is not such as 
to encourage him to prolong his stay. " Were we to 
come down to details," he says, " and to attend to 
slight variations, we should be lost in an ocean of sym- 
bolism and mysticism."^ This is like De Ouincey's 
attitude towards murder. " General principles I will 
suggest. But as to any particular case, once for all I 
will have nothing to do with it." There is no having 
a man who takes such lofty ground. 

Mr. Le Page Renouf also considers that Osiris is 
the sun,'^ and his position is still stronger than Tiele's. 
For whereas Tiele produces bad arguments for his 
view, Mr. Renouf produces none at all, and therefore 
cannot possibly be confuted. 

The ground upon which some recent writers seem 
chiefly to rely for the identification of Osiris with the 
sun is that the story of his death fits better with the 
solar phenomena than with any other in nature. It 
may readily be admitted that the daily appearance and 
disappearance of the sun might very naturally be ex- 
pressed by a myth of his death and resurrection ; and 
writers who regard Osiris as the sun are careful to 
emphasise the fact that it is the diurnal, and not the 
annual, course of the sun to which they understand the 
myth to apply. Mr. Renouf expressly admits that the 

1 Tiele, op. cit. p. 46. 3 Lg Page Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, 

^ /^. p. 45- 1S79, p. Ill sqq. 



Egyptian sun cannot with any show of reason be de- 
scribed as dead in winter.^ But if his daily death was 
the theme of the legend, why was it celebrated by an 
animal ceremony ? This fact alone seems fatal to the 
interpretation of the myth as descriptive of sunset and 
sunrise. Again, though the sun may be said to die 
daily, in what sense can he be said to be torn in 



In the course of our inquiry, it has, I trust, been 
made clear that there is another natural phenomenon 

1 Hibhert Lectures, 1879, p. 113. 
Cp. Maspero, Histoire aiicienne,^ 1^. 35 ; 
Ed. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, 

i. §§55, 57- 

- There are far more plausible 
grounds for identifying Osiris with the 
moon than with the sun — i. He was 
said to have lived or reigned twenty- 
eight years ; Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 
CO. 1 3, 42. This might be taken as a 
mythical expression for a lunar month. 
2. His body was rent into fourteen 
pieces (//'. cc. 18, 42). This might 
be interpreted of the moon on the 
wane, losing a piece of itself on each of 
the fourteen days which make up the 
second half of a lunation. It is 
expressly mentioned that Typhon found 
the body of Osiris at the full moon 
(il>. 8) ; thus the dismemberment of 
the god would begin with the waning 
of the moon. 3. In a hymn supposed 
to be addressed by Isis to Osiris, it is 
said that Thoth 

" Placeth thy soul in the bark Ma-at, 
In that name which is thine, of God 

And again, 

' ' Thou 20/w contest to 11s as a cliild eacli 

We do not cease to contemplate thee, 
Thine emanation heightens the brilliancy 
Of the stars of Orion in the firmament," 


Records of the Past, i. 121 sq.; Brugsch, 
Religion und Mythologie der alien 
Aegypter, p. 629 sq. Here then Osiris 

is identified with the moon in set terms. 
If in the same hymn he is said to 
"illuminate us like Ra" (the sun), this, 
as we have already seen, is no rea- 
son for identifying him with the sun, 
but quite the contrary. 4. At the new 
moon of the month Phanemoth, being 
the beginning of spring, the Eg)'ptians 
celebrated what they called " the entry 
of Osiris into the moon." Plutarch, 
Is. et Os. 43. 5. The bull Apis, which 
was regarded as an image of the soul 
of Osiris {Is. et Os. cc. 20, 29), was 
born of a cow which was believed to 
have been impregnated by the moon 
(id. 43). 6. Once a year, at the full 
moon, pigs were sacrificed simul- 
taneously to the moon and Osiris. 
Herodotus, ii. 47 ; Plutarch, Is. et Os. 
8. The relation of the pig to Osiris will 
be examined later on. 

Without attempting to explain in de- 
tail why a god of vegetation, as I take 
Osiris to have been, should have been 
brought into such close connection with 
the moon, I may refer to the intimate 
relation which is vulgarly believed to 
subsist between the growth of vegeta- 
tion and the phases of the moon. See 
e.g. Pliny, Nat. Hist. ii. 221, xvi. 
190, xvii. 108, 215, xviii. 200, 228, 
308, 314; Plutarch, Quaest. Conviv. 
iii. ID, 3 ; Aulus Gellius, xx. 8, 7 ; 
Macrobius, Saturn, vii. 16, 29 sq. 
Many examples are furnished by the 
ancient writers on agriculture, e.g. 
Cato, 37, 4 ; Varro, i. 37 ; Geoponica, 
i. 6. 


to which the conception of death and resurrection is as 
appHcable as to sunset and sunrise, and which, as a 
matter of fact has been so conceived and represented 
in folk-custom. This phenomenon is the annual growth 
and decay of vegetation. A strong reason for inter- 
preting the death of Osiris as the decay of vegetation 
rather than as the sunset is to be found in the general 
(though not unanimous) voice of antiquity, which 
classed together the worship and myths of Osiris, 
Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Demeter, as religions of 
essentially the same type.^ The consensus of ancient 
opinion on this subject seems too great to be rejected 
as a mere fancy. So closely did the rites of Osiris 
resemble those of Adonis at Byblus that some of the 
people of Byblus themselves maintained that it was 
Osiris and not Adonis whose death was mourned by 
them.- Such a view could certainly not have been 
held if the rituals of the two gods had not been so 
alike as to be almost indistinguishable. Again, Hero- 
dotus found the similarity between the rites of Osiris 
and Dionysus so great, that he thought it impossible 
the latter could have arisen independently ; they 
must, he thought, have been recently borrowed, with 
slight alterations, by the Greeks from the Egyptians.^ 
Again, Plutarch, a very intelligent student of compara- 
tive religion, insists upon the detailed resemblance of 
the rites of Osiris to those of Dionysus."^ We cannot 

1 Herodotus, ii. 42, 49, 59, 144, ^i-qyr)iJ.aTa, xxii. 2, in Mythographi 

156 ; Plutarch, his et Osiris, 13, Graeci, ed. Westermann, p. 368 ; 

35 ; /(/., Quaest. Conviv. iv. 5, 3 ; Dio- Nonnus, Dionys. iv. 269 .f.7.; Cornutus, 

dorus, i. 13, 25, 96, iv. i; Orphica, De natitra dconim, c. 28; Clemens 

Hymn 42 ; Eusebius, Praepar. Evaug. Alexandr. Protrcpt. ii. 19 ; Firmicus 

iii. II, 31 ; Servius on Virgil, Aen. xi. Maternus, De errore profan. 7-elig. 7. 
287 ; id., on Gcorg i. 166 ; Hippolytus, 2 Lucian, Dc dea Syria, 7. 

Refnt. ovin. haeres. v. 9, p. 168 ; 
Socrates, Eccles. Hist. iii. 23, p. 204 ; 

3 Herodotus, ii. 49. 

Tzetzes, ScJiol. in Lycophron, 212; * Plutarch, /f/j' ^/ Cj/r/.f, 35. 


reject the evidence of such inteUigent and trustworthy 
witnesses on plain matters of fact which fell under their 
own cognisance. Their explanations of the worships 
it is indeed possible to reject, for the meaning of 
religious cults is often open to question ; but resem- 
blances of ritual are matters of observation. There- 
fore, those who explain Osiris as the sun are driven 
to the alternative of either dismissing as mistaken 
the testimony of antiquity to the similarity of the 
rites of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Deme- 
ter, or of interpreting all these rites as sun-worship. 
No modern scholar has fairly faced and accepted 
either side of this alternative. To accept the former 
would be to affirm that we know the rites of these 
deities better than the men who practised, or at least 
who witnessed them. To accept the latter would in- 
volve a wrenching, clipping, mangling, and distorting 
of myth and ritual from which even Macrobius shrank.^ 
On the other hand, the view that the essence of all 
these rites was the mimic death and revival of vege- 
tation, explains them separately and collectively in an 
easy and natural way, and harmonises with the general 
testimony borne by antiquity to their substantial simi- 
larity. The evidence for thus explaining Adonis, 
Attis, and Osiris has now been presented to the 
reader ; it remains to do the same for Dionysus and 

§ 7. — Dionys2is 

The Greek god Dionysus or Bacchus'- is best 
known as the god of the vine, but he was also a god 

1 Osiris, Attis, Adonis, and Dionysus whom, however, he interpreted as the 
were all explained by him as the sun ; moon. See the Saturnalia, bk. i. 
but he stopped short at Demeter (Ceres), - On Dionysus in general see Preller, 


of trees in Qreneral. Thus we are told that almost all 
the Greeks sacrificed to " Dionysus of the tree."^ In 
Boeotia one of his titles was '' Dionysus in the tree."'-^ 
His image was often merely an upright post, without 
arms, but draped in a mantle, with a bearded mask 
to represent the head, and with leafy boughs pro- 
jecting from the head or body to show the nature 
of the deity. ^ On a vase his rude effigy is depicted 
appearing out of a low tree or bush/ He was the 
patron of cultivated trees ; ^ prayers were offered to 
him that he would make the trees grow ; " and he was 
especially honoured by husbandmen, chiefly fruit- 
growers, who set up an image of him, in the shape 
of a natural tree-stum^p, in their orchards.^ He was 
said to have discovered all tree-fruits, amongst which 
apples and figs are particularly mentioned ; * and he 
was himself spoken of as doing a husbandman's work.'' 
He was referred to as " well-fruited," " he of the green 
fruit," and "making the fruit to grow."^° One of his titles 
was " teeming " or " bursting " (as of sap or blossoms) ;^^ 
and there was a Flowery Dionysus in Attica and at 
Patrae in Achaea.^' Amongst the trees particularly 
sacred to him, in addition to the vine, was the pine-tree.^^ 

Griechische Mythologie,^ i. 544 sqq. ; * Daremberg et Saglio, op. cit. i. 626. 

Fr. Lenormant, article "Bacchus" in s Cornutus, De 7iatiira deorum, 30. 

Daremberg et Saglio, Dictionnaire 6 pindar, quoted by Plutarch, Isis 

lies Antiquith grecques ct romaines, ^f Osiris, 35. 

i. 591 sqq.; Voigt and Thraemer's 7 Maximus Tyrius, Dissertat. viii. 

article "Dionysus," in Roscher's ^?/5- j 

fiihrliches Lexikon der griech. tind rom. s Athenaeus, iii. pp. 78 C, 82 D. 

Mythologie, i. c. 1029 sqq. 9 Himerius, Oraf. i. 10, Atoz^wos 

1 Plutarch, Quaest. Conviv. v. 3, 1 

Acovv<np Se bevbpirr, iravre,, cbs eVos ^, ^^^ ^ ^ ^^ j..._ g_ 

^ Hesychius, s.v. "E.Se.Spos. '' Aehan, Fan Hist m 41 ; 

3 See the pictures of his images, Hesychuis, s.v. *X^co[s]. Cp. Plutarch, 

taken from ancient vases, in Botticher, Qnacst. Lonviv. v. 8, 3. 

Baumlatltiis der Helleiien, plates 42, ^"- Pausanias, i. 31, 4; id. vii. 21. 

43, 43 A, 43 B, 44 ; Daremberg et 6 (2). 

Saglio, op. cit. i. 361, 626. i:'- Plutarch, Quaest. Conviv. v. 3. 



The Delphic oracle commanded the Corinthians to 
worship a particular pine-tree "equally with the god," 
so they made two images of Dionysus out of it, with 
red faces and gilt bodies.^ In art a wand, tipped with 
a pine-cone, is commonly carried by the god or his 
worshippers.^ Again, the ivy and the fig-tree were 
especially associated with him. In the Attic township 
of Acharnae there was a Dionysus Ivy;^ at Lace- 
daemon there was a Fig Dionysus ; and in Naxos, 
where figs were called meilicha, there was a Dionysus 
Meilichios, the face of whose image was made of fig- 

Like the other gods of vegetation whom we have 
been considering, Dionysus was believed to have died 
a violent death, but to have been brought to life again ; 
and his sufferings, death, and resurrection were enacted 
in his sacred rites. The Cretan myth, as related by 
Firmicus, ran thus. He was said to have been the 
bastard son of Jupiter (Zeus), a Cretan king. Going 
abroad, Jupiter transferred the throne and sceptre to 
the child Dionysus, but, knowing that his wife Juno 
(Hera) cherished a jealous dislike of the child, he 
entrusted Dionysus to the care of guards upon whose 
fidelity he believed he could rely. Juno, however, 
bribed the guards, and amusing the child with toys 
and a cunningly-wrought looking-glass lured him into 
an ambush, where her satellites, the Titans, rushed 
upon him, cut him limb from limb, boiled his body 

1 Pausanias, ii. 2, 6 (5) sq. altcn Kunst, ii. pi. xxxii. sqq. ; 
Pausanias does not mention the kind Baumeister, De7ikmaler des klassischen 
of tree : but from Euripides, Bacchae, Altertiims, i. figures 489, 491, 492, 
1064 sqq., and Philostratus, Lnag. i. 495. Cp. Lenormant in Daremberg et 
17 (18), we may infer that it was a Saglio, i. 623 ; Lobeck, Aglaophamus, 
pine; though Theocritus (xxvi. 11) p. 700. 

speaks of it as a mastich-tree. ■^ Pausanias, i. 31, 6 (3). 

2 Muller-Wieseler, Denkmdler der ^ Athenaeus, iii. p. 78 c. 


with various herbs and ate it. But his sister Minerva, 
who had shared in the deed, kept his heart and gave it 
to Jupiter on his return, reveahng to him the whole 
history of the crime. In his rage, Jupiter put the 
Titans to death by torture, and, to soothe his grief for 
the loss of his son, made an image in which he enclosed 
the child's heart, and then built a temple in his honour.^ 
In this version a Euhemeristic turn has been given to 
the myth by representing Jupiter and Juno (Zeus and 
Hera) as a king and queen of Crete. The guards 
referred to are the mythical Curetes who danced a 
war-dance round the infant Dionysus as they are said 
to have done round the infant Zeus." Pomegranates 
were supposed to have sprung from the blood of 
Dionysus,^ as anemones from the blood of Adonis 
and violets from the blood of Attis. According to 
some, the severed limbs of Dionysus were pieced 
together, at the command of Zeus, by Apollo, who 
buried them on Parnassus.^ The grave of Dionysus 
was shown in the Delphic temple beside a golden 
statue of Apollo.' Thus far the resurrection of the 
slain god is not mentioned, but in other versions 
of the myth it is variously related. One version, 
which represented Dionysus as a son of Demeter, 
averred that his mother pieced together his mangled 
limbs and made him young again. "^ In others it is 
simply said that shortly after his burial he rose from 

1 Firmicus Maternus, Dc errore pro- together, not by Apollo but by Rhea. 
fanarum religioniini, 6. Cornutus, De natiira deoriim, 30. 

2 ClemensAlexandr.,/'rt'/;-(?//'. ii. 17. ^ Lobeck, Aglaophamus,T^. S72 sqq. 
Cp. Lobeck, Aglaophamits, p. 1 1 1 1 sqq. For a conjectural restoration of the 

3 Clemens Alexandr.,/'r^/;-tyi/. ii. 19. temple, based on ancient authorities 
■1 Clemens Alexandr.j/'r^i/rij/A ii. iS; and an examination of the scanty 

Proclus on Plato's Timaeus, iii. 200 d, remains, see an article by Professor 

quoted by Lobeck, y^_o-/a^//^aw^<^, p. 562, J. H. Middleton, \n Journal of Hellenic 

and by Abel, Orphica, p. 234. Others Studies, vol. ix. p. 282 sqq. 
said that the mangled body was pieced '^ Diodorus, iii. 62. 


the dead and ascended up to heaven ;^ or that Zeus 
raised him up as he lay mortally wounded ; - or that 
Zeus swallowed the heart of Dionysus and then begat 
him afresh by Semele,^ who in the common legend 
figures as mother of Dionysus. Or, again, the heart 
was pounded up and given in a potion to Semele, 
who thereby conceived him/ 

Turning from the myth to the ritual, we find that 
the Cretans celebrated a biennial ^ festival at which the 
sufferings and death of Dionysus were represented in 
every detail.'' Where the resurrection formed part 
of the myth, it also was enacted at the rites, ^ and it 
even appears that a general doctrine of resurrection, 
or at least of immortality, was inculcated op the 
worshippers; for Plutarch, writing to console his wife 
on the death of their infant daughter, comforts her with 
the thought of the immortality of the soul as taught by 
tradition and revealed in the mysteries of Dionysus.- 
A different form of the myth of the death and re- 
surrection of Dionysus is that he descended into 
Hades to bring up his mother Semele from the dead.^ 
The local Argive tradition was that he descended 

1 Macrobius, Co7nment. in Somn. the series being included in the numera- 
Scip. i, 12, 12; Scriptores rerum tion, in accordance with the ancient mode 
viythicaiwn Latini tres Romae nuper of reckoning.) Probably the festivals 
reperti (commonly referred to as were formerly annual and the period 
Mythogi-aphi Vaticani), ed. G. H. was afterwards lengthened, as has 
Bode (Cellis, 1834), iii. 12, 5, p. 246; happened with other festivals. See 
Origen, c. Cels. iv. 17 1, quoted by W. Mannhardt, Baii?>ikii/tus, pp. 172, 
Lobeck, Aglaophamus, p. 713. 175, 491, 533 sq., 598. Some of the 

2 Himerius, Oi-at. ix. 4. festivals of Dionysus, however, were 
^ Proclus, Hymn to Minerva, in annual. 

Lobeck, ^^r^/rt^/|/;(zw//.f, p. 561 ; Orpliica, '' Firmicus Maternus, Dc err. prof. 

ed. Abel, p. 235. relig. 6. 

■• Hyginus, Fab. 167. "' Mytlwgr. Vatic, ed. Bode, I.e. 

5 The festivals of Dionysus were * Plutarch, Consol. ad uxor. 10. 

biennial in many places. See Scho- Cp. id., /sis et Osiris, 35 ; id., De ei 

mann, Griechische Alterthii»ier,'^ ii. Delphico, 9; id., De esu caritium,i. "j. 
500 sqq. (The terms for the festival ^ Pausanias, ii. 31, 2, and 37, 

weterpieT-qpls, TpieTTjpLKds, both terms of 5; Apollodorus, iii. 5, 3. 


through the Alcyonian lake ; and his return from the 
lower world, in other words his resurrection, was 
annually celebrated on the spot by the Argives, who 
summoned him from the water by trumpet blasts, 
while they threw a lamb into the lake as an offering 
to the warder of the dead/ Whether this was a spring 
festival does not appear, but the Lydians certainly 
celebrated the advent of Dionysus in spring ; the god 
was supposed to bring the season with him.' Deities 
of vegetation, who are supposed to pass a certain 
portion of each year underground, naturally come to be 
regarded as gods of the lower world or of the dead. 
Both Dionysus and Osiris were so conceived.^ 

A feature in the mythical character of Dionysus, 
which at first sight appears inconsistent with his nature 
as a deity of vegetation, is that he was often conceived 
and represented in animal shape, especially in the 
form, or at least with the horns, of a bull. Thus he 
is spoken of as "cow-born," "bull," " bull -shaped," 
"bull-faced," " bull -browed," " bull -horned," " horn- 
bearing," "two-horned," "horned."-^ He was believed 
to appear, at least occasionally, as a bull.'^ His images 
were often, as at Cyzicus, made in bull shape,'' or with 
bull horns ; ' and he was painted with horns.^ Types 
of the horned Dionysus are found amongst the sur- 

1 Pausanias, ii. 37, 5 sq. ; Plutarch, xlv. i, lii. 2, liii. 8; Euripides, Bacchae, 
his et Osiris, IS \ id., Qiiaest Conviv. 99; Schol. on Aristophanes, Frogs, 
iv. 6, 2. 357 ; Nicander, Akxipharmaca, 31 ; 

2 Himerius, Oi'at. iii. 6, xiv. 7. Lucian, Bacchus, 2. 

3 For Dionysus, see Lenormant in 5 Y.m\^\difS:, Bacchae, c)^o sqq.,\o\']. 
Daremberg et Saglio, i. 632. For g Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 35 ; 
Osiris, see Wilkinson, Manners atid A.v,<.m^,i= / /• 

^ ,- . . - . T^ , , • /vinenacub, t.c. 
Customs of the Ancient Egyptians 

(London, 1878), iii. 65 

Diodorus, iii. 64, 2, iv. 4, 

Plut'arch, Isis et Osiris, 35 ; H; ^ornutus, De natura deorum, 30. 
Quaest. Grace. 36 ; Athenaeus, xi. « Diodorus, I.e. ; Tzetzes, Schol. in 

476 a: Clemens Alexandr., Protrept. Lycophr. 209; Philostratus, Imagines, 

ii. 16 ; Orphica, Hymn xxx. vv. 3, 4, i. 14 (15). 


viving monuments of antiquity.^ On one statuette he 
appears clad in a bull's hide, the head, horns, and 
hoofs hanging down behind.- At his festivals Dionysus 
was believed to appear in bull form. The women 
of Elis hailed him as a bull, and prayed him to come 
with his bulls-foot. They sang, "Come here, Dionysus, 
to thy holy temple by the sea ; come with the Graces 
to thy temple, rushing with thy bull's-foot, O goodly 
bull, O goodly bull ! "^ According to the myth, it was 
in the shape of a bull that he was torn to pieces by the 
Titans;^ and the Cretans, in representing the sufferings 
and death of Dionysus, tore a live bull to pieces with 
their teeth. ^ Indeed, the rendino- and devourino; of 
live bulls and calves appear to have been a regular 
feature of the Dionysiac rites. *^ The practice of re- 
presenting the god in bull form or with some of the 
features of a bull, the belief that he appeared in bull 
form to his worshippers at the sacred rites, and the 
legend that it was in bull form that he had been torn 
in pieces — all these facts taken together leave no room 
to doubt that in rending and devouring a live bull at 
his festival his worshippers believed that they were 
killing the god, eating his flesh, and drinking his blood. 
Another animal whose form Dionysus assumed was 
the goat. One of his names was "Kid."" To save 
him from the wrath of Hera, his father Zeus changed 

1 Miiller-Wieseler, Denktndler der ^ Euripides, Bacchae, 735 sqq.; 
alten Kzmst, ii. pi. xxxiii. ; Daremberg Schol. on Aristophanes, Frogs, 357. 

et Saglio, i. 619 sq., 631; Roscher, '' Hesychius, s.v. "EpL(pos 6 Aiowaos, 

Atisfiihrl . Lexikon, \. c. 11^^ sqq. on which there is a marginal gloss 

2 Welcker, Alfe Deiikmdkr, v. taf. ° '''"'P^f °-'^l ° ^'' '"i' ^<^P' <paLi'6/x€vo9, 
2. ijyovf 6 wpwl'/xos ; Stephanos Byzant. 

3 Plutarch, Qua^sL Graec. 36; id., -^•'^- '^'^;P'^P"«- The title E,>a0.c6T^s is 
Isis et Osiris " "; probably to be explained \n the same 

, ^^ ' ^ ' . way. [Homer], Hymn xxxiv. 2 ; Por- 

J Nonnus, Dzonys. vi. 205. p^yry, De aLdin. iii. 17; Dionysius, 

s Firmicus Maternus, Z'e t'r;wv/;-^- Perieg. 576; Elymolog. Magnum, p. 

fan. religionum, 6. 37i) 57- 


him into a kid ; ^ and when the gods fled to Egypt to 
escape the fury of Typhon, Dionysus was turned into 
a goat." Hence when his worshippers rent in pieces 
a Hve goat and devoured it raw,^ they must have 
beheved that they were eating the body and blood of 
the god. 

This custom of kilHng a god in animal form, which 
we shall examine more fully presently, belongs to a 
very early stage in human culture, and is apt in later 
times to be misunderstood. The advance of thought 
tends to strip the old animal and plant gods of their 
bestial and vegetable husk, and to leave their human 
attributes (which are always the kernel of the concep- 
tion) as the final and sole residuum. In other words, 
animal and plant gods tend to become purely anthropo- 
morphic. When they have become wholly or nearly 
so, the animals and plants which were at first the 
deities themselves, still retain a vague and ill-under- 
stood connection with the anthropomorphic gods which 
have been developed out of them. The origin of the 
relationship between the deity and the animal or plant 
having been forgotten, various stories are invented to 
explain it. These explanations may follow one of two 
lines according as they are based on the habitual or on 
the exceptional treatment of the sacred animal or plant. 
The sacred animal was habitually spared, and only 
exceptionally slain ; and accordingly the myth might 
be devised to explain either why it was spared or why 

1 ApoUodorus, iii. 4, 3. v^l^pi^uv ; Harpocration, s.v. ve^pil;wv}, 

^ . , , , , , . • it is probable that the fawn was another 

■^ Ovid, Metam. v. 32Q ; Antoninus r .1 ^•, 1 r * -d .. r 

T ., ,. ' o TiT .1 T'.- 1 of the i^od's embodiments. But of 

Liberahs, 28; Mythos;): latic. ed. ,. , ^ i- ^ -i 

. ' ' ■* ■^ this there seems no direct evidence. 

o e, 1. , p. 9. Fawn-skins were worn both by the god 

3 Arnobius, Adv. 7iafiones, v. 19. and his vsrorshippers (Cornutus, De 

Cp. Suidas, s. v. aiyl^eiv. As fawns iiatiira deoriim, c. 30). Similarly the 

appear to have been also torn in pieces female Bacchanals wore goat -skins 

at the rites of Dionysus (Photius, s.v. (Hesychius, s.v. Tpay7j(p6pot). 


it was killed. Devised for the former purpose, the 
myth would tell of some service rendered to the deity 
by the animal ; devised for the latter purpose, the 
myth would tell of some injury inflicted by the animal 
on the god. The reason given for sacrificing goats to 
Dionysus is an example of a myth of the latter sort. 
They were sacrificed to him, it was said, because 
they injured the vine.^ Now the goat, as we have 
seen, was originally an embodiment of the god him- 
self. But when the god had divested himself of his 
animal character and had become essentially anthro- 
pomorphic, the killing of the goat in his worship 
came to be regarded no longer as a slaying of the god 
himself, but as a sacrifice to him ; and since some 
reason had to be assigned why the goat in particular 
should be sacrificed, it was alleged that this was 
a punishment inflicted on the goat for injuring the 
vine, the object of the god's especial care. Thus we 
have the strange spectacle of a god sacrificed to him- 
self on the ground that he is his own enemy. And as 
the god Is supposed to partake of the victim offered to 
him, it follows that, when the victim is the god's old 
self, the god eats of his own flesh. Hence the 
goat-god Dionysus is represented as eating raw goat's 
blood ;- and the bull-god Dionysus is called "eater of 
bulls." ^ On the analogy of these instances we may 
conjecture that wherever a god is described as the 
eater of a particular animal, the animal in question was 
originally nothing but the god himself.^ 

1 YsLXXO, Dere7-ustica\.2,ic);Virg\\, ^ Schol. on Aristophanes, Frogs, 
Georg. ii. 380, and Servius, ad /., and 357. 

on Aen. iii. 118; Ovid, Fasti, i. 353 ■* Hera alyo(pdyos at Sparta, Paus- 

sffg.; id., Metam. xv. W^sq.; Cornutus, anias, iii. 15, 9 (cp. the representation 

be natura deoruni, 30. of Hera clad in a goat's skin, with the 

2 Euripides, Bacchae, 138 sq. dypev- animal's head and horns over her head, 
wv alfxa TpayoKTOPov, w/xo(pdyov xa/""- ]\I tiller- Wieseler, Denkmdkr der altai 


All this, however, does not explain why a deity of 
vegetation should appear in animal form. But the 
consideration of this point had better be deferred till 
we have discussed the character and attributes of 
Demeter. Meantime it remains to point out that in 
some places, instead of an animal, a human being was 
torn in pieces at the rites of Dionysus. This was the 
custom in Chios and Tenedos ; ^ and at Potniae in 
Boeotia the tradition ran that it had been formerly the 
custom to sacrifice to the goat -smiting Dionysus a 
child, for whom a goat was afterwards substituted.- 
At Orchomenus the human victim was taken from the 
women of a certain family, called the Oleiae. At the 
annual festival the priest of Dionysus pursued these 
women with a drawn sword, and if he overtook one of 
them he had a right to slay her. This right was ex- 
ercised as late as Plutarch's time.^ As the slain bull 
or goat represented the slain god, so, we may suppose, 
the human victim also represented him. It is possible, 
however, that a tradition of human sacrifice may some- 
times have been a mere misinterpretation of a sacrifi- 
cial ritual in which an animal victim was treated as a 
human being. For example, at Tenedos the new-born 
calf sacrificed to Dionysus was shod in buskins, and 
the mother cow was tended like a woman in child-bed.^ 

/w/wi/, i. No. 299 B); Apollo 6i^o.^d7os 77; Apollo \vkokt6vos, Sophocles, 

at Elis, Athenaeus, 346 b ; Artemis Ekdra, 6 ; Apollo a<xvf>oKTdvo%, Pliny, 

KaTrpo(pdyos in Samos, Hesychius, s.v. Nat. Hist, xxxiv. 70. 

Kairpocpdyos ; cp. u/., s.i'. Kpio(pdyos. ^ Porphyry, De abstin. ii. 55. 

Divine titles derived from killmg ^ Pausanias, ix. 8, 2. 

animals are probably to be similarly ^ Plutarch, Qnaest. Grace. 38. 

explained, as Dionysus alybpo\o%, * Aelian, Nat. An. xii. 34. Cp. W. 

Pausanias ix. 8, 2 ; Rhea or Hecate Robertson Smith, Religion of the Sem- 

Kvvoarpayris, Tzetzes, Schol. in Lycophr. ites, i. 286 sqq. 


§ 8. — Denicter' and Proserpine 

The Greek myth of Demeter and Proserpine is 
substantially identical with the Syrian myth of Aphro- 
dite (Astarte) and Adonis, the Phrygian myth of 
Cybele and Attis, and the Egyptian myth of I sis and 
Osiris. In the Greek myth, as in its Asiatic and 
Egyptian counterparts, a goddess — Demeter — mourns 
the loss of a loved one — Proserpine — who personifies 
the vegetation, more especially the corn, which dies 
in summer^ to revive in spring. But in the Greek 
myth the loved and lost one is the daughter in- 
stead of the husband or lover of the goddess ; and 
the mother as well as the daughter is a goddess 
of the corn." Thus, as modern scholars have 
recognised,^ Demeter and Proserpine are merely a 
mythical reduplication of the same natural pheno- 
menon. Proserpine, so ran the Greek myth,'* was 
gathering flowers when the earth gaped, and Pluto, 
lord of the Dead, issuing from the abyss, carried her 
off on his golden car to be his bride in the gloomy 
subterranean world. Her sorrowing mother Demeter 
sought her over land and sea, and learning from the 

1 It is to be remembered that on the Duncker and Schneidewin) that at the 
Mediterranean coasts the harvest never initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries 
falls so late as autumn. (the most famous of all the rites of 

2 On Demeter as a corn- goddess see Demeter) the central mystery revealed to 
Mannhardt, Mythologische Forschungen, the initiated was a reaped ear of corn, 
p. 2245^^.; on Proserpine in the same ^ Welcker, Gi-iechische Gotterlehrc, 
character see Cornutus, De nat. dear. ii. 532 ; Preller, in Pauly's Real- 
c. 28 ; Varro in Augustine, Civ. Dei, Eucyclopiidie fiir class. Altertluimsiviss. 
vii. 20 ; Hesychius, s.v. ^epaecphveia ; vi. 107 ; Lenormant, in Daremberg 
Firmicus Maternus, De errore prof. et Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquiti's 
relig. 17. In his careful account of grecques et romai)ies, i. pt. ii. 1047 
Demeter as a corn-goddess Mannhardt sqq. 

appears to have overlooked the very •* Homer, Hymn to Demeter i Apol- 

important statement of Hippolytus lodorus, i. 5 ; Ovid, Fasti, iv. 425 
(Refnt. omn. haeres. v. 8, p. 162, ed. sqq.', id., Aletam. v. 385 j-^^/. 


Sun her daughter's fate, she suffered not the seed to 
grow, but kept it hidden in the ground, so that the 
whole race of men would have died of hunger if Zeus 
had not sent and fetched Proserpine from the nether 
world. Finally it was agreed that Proserpine should 
spend a third, or according to others a half,^ of each 
year with Pluto underground, but should come forth in 
spring to dwell with her mother and the gods in the 
upper world. Her annual death and resurrection, that 
is, her annual descent into the under world and her 
ascension from it, appear to have been represented in 
her rites.^ 

With regard to the name Demeter, it has been 
plausibly argued by Mannhardt^ that the first part of 
the word is derived from dcai, a Cretan word for 
"barley " ;^ and that thus Demeter means the Barley- 
mother or the Corn-mother ; for the root of the word 
appears to have been applied to different kinds of 
grain by different branches of the Aryans, and even 
of the Greeks themselves.^ As Crete appears to 
have been one of the most ancient seats of the wor- 
ship of Demeter,*' it is not surprising that her name 
should be of Cretan origin. This explanation of 
the name Dem.eter is supported by a host of ana- 
logies which the diligence of Mannhardt has collected 

1 A third, according to Homer, H. 3 Mythol. Forschungen, p. 292 sqq. 

to Demeter, 399, and Apollodorus, 'i. 4 Etymol. Magmun. p. 264, 12 sq. 

1;, ^ ; a half, according to Ovid, Fasti, . _ ^ , ^ „_ , ... 

W. 64 ; id. Mctam. V 567 ; Hyginus, " O- Schrader SpracJwergleuhung 

p. l^ J 5 ' 1)^ iiud U?-geschichte^'(]ex\!i,iS90),Y>V-A09^ 

2"schomann, Grlech. Alterthnmer,^ 422; V. U.Y^u, Kulturpjianzen umi 

ii. 393; Preller, Griech. Mythologie,^ Hausthiere in zkrern Uebergang aus 

i. ^zi sq., 644 sq., 650 sq. The Asien,^ ^. ^A A^a. is doubtless equi- 

evidence of thelncients on this head, valent etymologically to fern, which is 

thoucTh not full and definite, seems often taken to be spelt, but this seems 

sufficient. See Diodorus, v. 4; Fir- uncertain. 

micus Maternus, cc. 7, 27; Plutarch, « Hesiod, Tluog. 971; Lenormant, 

Ish et Osiris, eg ', Apuleius, ^lA-A vi. 2 ; in Daremberg et Saglio, 1. pt. u. p. 

Clemens Alex., Protrept. ii. §§ 12, 17. 1029. 

332 THE CORN-MOTHER chap. 

from modern European folk-lore, and of which the 
following are specimens. In Germany the corn is 
very commonly personified under the name of the 
Corn -mother. Thus in spring, when the wind sets 
the corn in wave-like motion, the peasants say, "There 
comes the Corn-mother," or "The Corn-mother is 
running over the field," or " The Corn-mother is going 
through the corn." ^ When children wish to go into 
the fields to pull the blue corn-flowers or the red 
poppies, they are told not to do so, because the Corn- 
mother is sitting in the corn and will catch them.^ Or 
again she is called, according to the crop, the Rye- 
mother or the Pea-mother, and children are warned 
against straying in the rye or among the peas by 
threats of the Rye-mother or the Pea-mother. In Nor- 
way also the Pea-mother is said to sit among the peas.^ 
Similar expressions are current among the Slavs. The 
Poles and Czechs warn children against the Corn- 
mother who sits in the corn. Or they call her the Old 
Corn-woman, and say that she sits in the corn and 
strangles the children who tread it down.* The 
Lithuanians say, "The Old Rye-woman sits in the 
corn." ^ Again the Corn-mother is believed to make 
the crop grow. Thus in the neighbourhood of Magde- 
burg it is sometimes said, " It will be a good year for 
flax ; the Flax-mother has been seen." At Dinkelsbtihl 
(Bavaria) down to fifteen or twenty years ago, people 
believed that when the crops on a particular farm com- 
pared unfavourably with those of the neighbourhood, 
the reason was that the Corn-mother had punished the 
farmer for his sins.*^ In a village of Styria it is 
said that the Corn -mother, in the shape of a female 

1 W. Mannhardt, Mythol. Forsch. p. 296. '- lb. p. 297. 

3 lb. p. 297 sq. ■! //;. p. 299. •' lb. p. 300. //;_ p, ^io_ 


puppet made out of the last sheaf of corn and dressed 
in white, may be seen at midnight in the corn-fields, 
which she fertilises by passing through them ; but if 
she is angry with a farmer, she withers up all his 

Further, the Corn-mother plays an important part in 
harvest customs. She is believed to be present in the 
handful of corn which is left standing last on the held ; 
and with the cutting of this last handful she is caught, 
or driven away, or killed. In the first of these cases, 
the last sheaf is carried joyfully home and honoured as 
a divine being. It is placed in the barn, and at 
threshing the corn-spirit appears again. ^ In the 
district of Hadeln (Hanover) the reapers stand round 
the last sheaf and beat it with sticks in order to drive 
the Corn -mother out of it. They call to each 
other, " There she is ! hit her ! Take care she doesn't 
catch you ! " The beating goes on till the grain is 
completely threshed out ; then the Corn -mother is 
believed to be driven away.'^ In the neighbourhood 
of Danzig the person who cuts the last ears of corn 
makes them into a doll, which is called the Corn-mother 
or the Old Woman, and is brought home on the last 
waggon.^ In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is 
dressed in woman's clothes and called the Corn-mother. 
It is carried home on the last waggon, and then 
thoroughly drenched with water. The drenching with 
water is doubtless a rain-charm.^ In the district of 
Bruck in Styria the last sheaf, called the Corn-mother, 
is made up into the shape of a woman by the oldest 
married woman in the village, of an age from fifty to 
fifty-five years. The finest ears are plucked out of it 

1 W. Mannhardt, Mythol. Forsch. p. 310 5^^. - //'. p. 316. 

3 //;. p. 316. ■* lb. p. 316 .fi/. ^ See above, pp. 16 5(/. , 286 j-(/. 

334 THE CORN-MOTHER chap. 

and made into a wreath, which, twined with flowers, is 
carried on her head by the prettiest girl of the village 
to the farmer or squire, while the Corn-mother is laid 
down in the barn to keep off the mice.^ In other 
villages of the same district the Corn -mother, at the 
close of harvest, is carried by two lads at the top of a 
pole. They march behind the girl who wears the 
wreath to the squire's house, and while he receives 
the wreath and hangs it up in the hall, the Corn- 
mother is placed on the top of a pile of wood, where 
she is the centre of the harvest supper and dance. 
Afterwards she is hung up in the barn and remains 
there till the threshing is over. The man who gives 
the last stroke at threshing is called the son of the 
Corn-mother; he is tied up in the Corn-mother, beaten, 
and carried through the village. The wreath is 
dedicated in church on the following Sunday ; and on 
Easter Eve the grain is rubbed out of it by a seven 
years' old girl and scattered amongst the young corn. 
At Christmas the straw of the wreath is placed in the 
manger to make the cattle thrive.- Here the ferti- 
lising power of the Corn-mother is plainly brought out 
by scattering the seed taken from her body (for the 
wreath is made out of the Corn -mother) among the 
new corn ; and her influence over animal life is 
indicated by placing the straw in the manger. At 
Westerhiisen in Saxony the last corn cut is made in 
the shape of a woman decked with ribbons and cloth. 
It is fastened on a pole and brought home on the last 
waggon. One of the people on the waggon keeps 
waving the pole, so that the figure moves as if alive. 
It is placed on the threshing-floor, and stays there till 
the threshing is done.^ Amongst the Slavs also the 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 317. - lb. p. 317 sq. 3 //,_ p_ ^iS. 


last sheaf is known as the Rye- mother, the Wheat- 
mother, the Oats-mother, the Barley -mother, etc., 
according to the crop. In the district of Tarnow, 
Galicia, the wreath made out of the last stalks is 
called the Wheat-mother, Rye-mother, or Pea-mother. 
It is placed on a girl's head and kept till spring, when 
some of the grain is mixed with the seed-corn.^ Here 
again the fertilising power of the Corn -mother is 
indicated. In France, also, in the neighbourhood of 
Auxerre, the last sheaf goes by the name of the 
Mother of the Wheat, Mother of the Barley, Mother of 
the Rye, or Mother of the Oats. It is left standing 
in the field till the last waggon is about to wend 
homewards. Then a puppet is made out of it, dressed 
with clothes belonging to the farmer, and adorned 
with a crown and a blue or white scarf. A branch 
of a tree is stuck in the breast of the puppet, which 
is now called the Ceres. At the dance in the evening 
the Ceres is placed in the middle of the floor, and the 
reaper who reaped fastest dances round it with the 
prettiest girl for his partner. After the dance a pyre is 
made. All the girls, each wearing a wreath, strip the 
puppet, pull it to pieces, and place it on the pyre, along 
with the flowers with which it was adorned. Then 
the girl who was the first to finish reaping sets fire 
to the pile, and all pray that Ceres may give a fruitful 
year. Here, as Mannhardt observes, the old custom 
has remained intact, though the name Ceres is a bit of 
schoolmaster's learning.'- In Upper Britanny the last 
sheaf is always made into human shape ; but if the 
farmer is a married man, it is made double and consists 
of a little corn -puppet placed inside of a large one. 
This is called the Mother-sheaf. It is delivered to the 

1 W. Mannhardt, My t hoi. Forsch. p. 318. - /^. p. 318 sq. 


farmer's wife, who unties it and gives drink -money 
in return.^ 

Sometimes the last sheaf is called, not the Corn- 
mother, but the Harvest-mother or the Great Mother. 
In the province of Osnabriick (Hanover) it is called the 
Harvest-mother ; it is made up in female form, and 
then the reapers dance about with it. In some parts 
of Westphalia the last sheaf at the rye harvest is made 
especially heavy by fastening stones in it. It is brought 
home on the last waggon and is called the Great 
Mother, though no special shape is given it. In the 
district of Erfurt a very heavy sheaf (not necessarily 
the last) is called the Great Mother, and is carried on 
the last waggon to the barn, where it is lifted down by 
all hands amid a fire of jokes.^ 

Sometimes again the last sheaf is called the 
Grandmother, and is adorned with flowers, ribbons, 
and a woman's apron. In East Prussia, at the rye 
or wheat harvest, the reapers call out to the woman 
who binds the last sheaf, " You are getting the Old 
Grandmother." In the neighbourhood of Magdeburg 
the men and women servants strive who shall get 
the last sheaf, called the Grandmother. Whoever gets 
it will be married in the next year, but his or her 
spouse will be old ; if a girl gets it, she will marry 
a widower ; if a man gets it, he will marry an old 
crone. In Silesia the Grandmother — a huge bundle 
made up of three or four sheaves by the person who 
tied the last sheaf — was formerly fashioned into a rude 
likeness of the human form.^ In the neighbourhood 
of Belfast the last sheaf is sometimes called Granny. 
It is not cut in the usual way, but all the reapers throw 

1 Sebillot, Coutumes popiilaires de la - W. Mannhardt, J/. F. p. 

HaiUe-Bretagne, p. 306. ^ lb. p. 320. 


their sickles at it and try to bring it down. It is 
plaited and kept till the (next ?) autumn. Whoever 
gets it will marry in the course of the year.^ 

Oftener the last sheaf is called the Old Woman 
or the Old Man. In Germany it is often shaped and 
dressed as a woman, and the person who cuts it or binds 
it is said to " get the Old Woman.' At Altisheim in 
Swabia when all the corn of a farm has been cut 
except a single strip, all the reapers stand in a row 
before the strip ; each cuts his share rapidly, and he 
who gives the last cut " has the Old Woman. "^ When 
the sheaves are being set up in heaps, the person who 
gets hold of the Old Woman, which is the largest and 
thickest of all the sheaves, is jeered at by the rest, who 
sing out to him, "He has the Old Woman and must 
keep her."* The woman who binds the last sheaf 
is sometimes herself called the Old Woman, and it 
is said that she will be married in the next year.'^ In 
Neusaass, West Prussia, both the last sheaf — which is 
dressed up in jacket, hat and ribbons — and the woman 
who binds it are called the Old Woman. Together 
they are brought home on the last waggon and are 
drenched with water.*' At Hornkampe, near Tiegen- 
hof (West Prussia), when a man or woman lags behind 
the rest in binding the corn, the other reapers dress 
up the last sheaf in the form of a man or woman, 
and this figure goes by the laggard's name, as "the 
old Michael," " the idle Trine." It is brought home 
on the last waggon, and, as It nears the house, the 
bystanders call out to the laggard, " You have got the 
Old Woman and must keep her." ' 

1 Mannhardt, Mythol. Forsch. p. 32 1 . deutschen Mythologie, ii. p. 2 1 9, No. 403. 

2 lb. pp. 321, 323, 325 sq. * W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 325. 

3 //;. p. 323 ; Panzer, Beitrag zur ^ lb. p. 323. « lb. "' lb. p. 323 sq. 


338 THE OLD WOMAN chap. 

In these customs, as Mannhardt has remarked, the 
person who is called by the same name as the last 
sheaf and sits beside it on the last waggon is obviously 
identified with it ; he or she represents the corn-spirit 
which has been caught in the last sheaf; in other 
words, the corn-spirit is represented in duplicate, by a 
human being and by a sheaf.^ The identification of 
the person with the sheaf is made still clearer by the 
custom of wrapping up in the last sheaf the person 
who cuts or binds it. Thus at Hermsdorf in Silesia 
it used to be the regular custom to tie up in the last 
sheaf the woman who had bound it.- At Weiden in 
Bavaria it is the cutter, not the binder, of the last sheaf 
who is tied up in it.^ Here the person wrapt up in 
the corn represents the corn-spirit, exactly as a person 
wrapt in branches or leaves represents the tree-spirit.* 

The last sheaf, designated as the Old Woman, is 
often distinguished from the other sheaves by its size 
and weight. Thus in some villages of West Prussia 
the Old Woman is made twice as long and thick as a 
common sheaf, and a stone is fastened in the middle of 
it. Sometimes it is made so heavy that a man can 
barely lift it.^ Sometimes eight or nine sheaves are tied 
together to make the Old Woman, and the man who 
sets it up complains of its weight.*' At Itzgrund, in 
Saxe-Coburg, the last sheaf, called the Old Woman, 
is made large with the express intention of thereby 
securing a good crop next year.^ Thus the custom of 
making the last sheaf unusually large or heavy is a 
charm, working by sympathetic magic, to secure a 
large and heavy crop in the following year. 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 324. * See above, p. 83 sqq. 

2 lb, p. 320. ^ W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 324. 

3 lb. p. 325. « lb. p. 324 sq. 7 //,. p. 325. 


In Denmark also the last sheaf is made larger than 
the others, and is called the Old Rye-woman or the Old 
Barley-woman. No one likes to bind it, because who- 
ever does so will, it is believed, marry an old man or 
an old woman. Sometimes the last wheat-sheaf, called 
the Old Wheat-woman, is made up in human shape, 
with head, arms, and legs, is dressed in clothes and 
carried home on the last waggon, the harvesters sitting 
beside it, drinking and huzzaing.^ Of the person who 
binds the last sheaf it is said, " She (or he) is the Old 

In Scotland, when the last corn was cut after 
Hallowmas, the female figure made out of it was 
sometimes called the Carlin or Carline, i.e. the Old 
Woman. But if cut before Hallowmas, it was called 
the Maiden ; if cut after sunset, it was called the 
Witch, being supposed to bring bad luck,=^ We shall 
return to the Maiden presently. In County Antrim, 
down to a few years ago, when the sickle was finally 
expelled by the reaping machine, the few stalks of corn 
left standing last on the field were plaited together ; 
then the reapers, blindfolded, threw their sickles at the 
plaited corn, and whoever happened to cut it through 
took it home with him and put it over his door. This 
bunch of corn was called the Carley^ — probably the 
same word as Carlin. 

Similar customs are observed by Slavonic peoples. 
Thus in Poland the last sheaf is commonly called the 
Baba, that is, the Old Woman. " In the last sheaf," 
it is said, "sits the Baba." The sheaf Itself is also 
called the Baba, and is sometimes composed of twelve 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. at. p. 327. hardt, Mythol. Forschungen, p. 326. 

2 lb. p. 328. * Communicated by my friend Prof. 

3 Jamieson, Dictionary of the Scottish W. Ridgeway, of Queen's College, 
Languas^e, s.v. "Maiden"; W. Mann- Cork. 

340 THE BAB A 

smaller sheaves lashed together,^ In some parts of 
Bohemia the Baba, made out of the last sheaf, has the 
figure of a woman with a great straw hat. It is carried 
home on the last harvest-waggon and delivered, along 
with a garland, to the farmer by two girls. In binding 
the sheaves the women strive not to be last, for 
she who binds the last sheaf will have a child next 
year." The last sheaf is tied up with others into a 
large bundle, and a green branch is stuck on the top 
of it.3 Sometimes the harvesters call out to the woman 
who binds the last sheaf, " She has the Baba," or " She 
is the Baba." She has then to make a puppet, some- 
times in female, sometimes in male form, out of the 
corn ; the puppet is occasionally dressed with clothes, 
often with flowers and ribbons only. The cutter of 
the last stalks, as well as the binder of the last sheaf, 
was also called Baba ; and a doll, called the Harvest- 
woman, was made out of the last sheaf and adorned 
with ribbons. The oldest reaper had to dance, first 
with this doll, and then with the farmer's wife.'* In 
the district of Cracow, when a man binds the last 
sheaf, they say, "The Grandfather is sitting in it;" 
when a woman binds it, they say, " The Baba is sitting 
in it," and the woman herself is wrapt up in the sheaf, 
so that only her head projects out of it. Thus encased 
in the sheaf, she is carried on the last harvest-waggon 
to the house, where she is drenched with water by the 
whole family. She remains in the sheaf till the dance 
is over, and for a year she retains the name of Baba.'' 

In Lithuania the name for the last sheaf is Boba 
(Old Woman), answering to the Polish name Baba. 
The Boba is said to sit in the corn which is left 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p.. 328. - lb. ^ lb. p. 328 sq. 

4 lb. p. 329. '" lb. p. 330. 


Standing last.^ The person who binds the last sheaf 
or digs the last potato is the subject of much banter, 
and receives and long retains the name of the Old 
Rye-woman or the Old Potato -woman.- The last 
sheaf — the Boba — is made into the form of a woman, 
carried solemnly through the village on the last harvest- 
waggon, and drenched with water at the farmer's house ; 
then every one dances with it.^ 

In Russia also the last sheaf is often shaped and 
dressed as a woman, and carried with dance and song 
to the farmhouse. Out of the last sheaf the Bulgarians 
make a doll which they call the Corn-queen or Corn- 
mother ; it is dressed in a woman's shirt, carried round 
the village, and then thrown into the river in order to 
secure plenty of rain and dew for the next year's crop. 
Or it is burned and the ashes strewn on the fields, 
doubtless to fertilise them.^ The name Queen, as 
applied to the last sheaf, has its analogies in Northern 
Europe. Thus Brand quotes from Hutchinson's History 
of NortJmmberland the following : "I have seen, in 
some places, an image apparelled in great finery, 
crowned with flowers, a sheaf of corn placed under 
her arm, and a scycle in her hand, carried out of the 
village in the morning of the conclusive reaping day, 
with music and much clamour of the reapers, into the 
field, where it stands fixed on a pole all day, and when 
the reaping is done, is brought home in like manner. 
This they call the Harvest Queen, and it represents 
the Roman Ceres." ^ From Cambridge also Dr. E. 
D. Clarke reported that " at the Hawkie [harvest- 
home], as it is called, I have seen a clown dressed in 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 330. ^ Hutchinson, History of Northum- 

2 //; p. 331. a //;. p. 331. herland, ii. ad finem, 17, quoted by 
4 //,, p. 332. Brand, Popular Antiquities, ii. 20, 

Bohn's ed. 

342 THE CORN -WOMAN chap. 

woman's clothes, having his face painted, his head 
decorated with ears of corn, and bearing about him 
other symbols of Ceres, carried in a waggon, with great 
pomp and loud shouts, through the streets, the horses 
being covered with white sheets ; and when I inquired 
the meaning of the ceremony, was answered by the 
people, that they were drawing the Harvest Queen." ^ 
Often the customs we have been examining are 
practised, not on the harvest field, but on the threshing- 
floor. The spirit of the corn, fleeing before the reapers 
as they cut down the corn, quits the cut corn and takes 
refuge in the barn, where it appears in the last sheaf 
threshed, either to perish under the blows of the flail 
or to flee thence to the still unthreshed corn of a neigh- 
bouring farm.'- Thus the last corn to be threshed is 
called the Mother-corn or the Old Woman. Some- 
times the person who gives the last stroke with the 
flail is called the Old Woman, and is wrapt in the 
straw of the last sheaf, or has a bundle of straw 
fastened on his back. Whether wrapt in the straw or 
carrying it on his back, he is carted through the village 
amid general laughter. In some districts of Bavaria, 
Thurinoren, etc., the man who threshes the last sheaf 
is said to have the Old Woman or the Old Corn- 
woman ; he is tied up in straw, carried or carted about 
the village, and set down at last on the dunghill, or 
taken to the threshing-floor of a neighbouring farmer 
who has not finished his threshing.^ In Poland the 
man who gives the last stroke at threshing is called 
Baba (Old Woman) ; he is wrapt in corn and wheeled 
through the village.^ Sometimes in Lithuania the last 
sheaf is not threshed, but is fashioned into female 

1 Quoted by Brand, op. cit. ii. 22. 

^ W. Mannhardt, Mythol. Forsch. p. 333 sq. ^ /^_ p_ ^34. ^ //;_ p. 3^4, 


shape and carried to the barn of a neighbour who has 
not finished his threshing.^ In some parts of Sweden, 
when a stranger woman appears on the threshing- 
floor, a flail is put round her body, stalks of corn are 
wound round her neck, a crown of ears is placed on 
her head, and the threshers call out, "Behold the 
Corn -woman." Here the stranger woman, thus 
suddenly appearing, is taken to be the corn-spirit who 
has just been expelled by the flails from the corn- 
stalks." In other cases the farmer's wife represents 
the corn -spirit. Thus in the Commune of Saligne, 
Canton de Poiret (Vendee), the farmer's wife, along 
with the last sheaf, is tied up in a sheet, placed on a 
litter, and carried to the threshing machine, under 
which she is shoved. Then the woman is drawn out 
and the sheaf is threshed by itself, but the woman is 
tossed in the sheet (in imitation of winnowing).^ It 
would be impossible to express more clearly the identi- 
fication of the woman with the corn than by this 
graphic imitation of threshing and winnowing her. 

In these customs the spirit of the ripe corn is 
regarded as old, or at least as of mature age. Hence 
the names of Mother, Grandmother, Old Woman, etc. 
But in other cases the corn-spirit is conceived as young, 
sometimes as a child who is separated from its mother 
by the stroke of the sickle. This last view appears in 
the Polish custom of calling out to the man who cuts 
the last handful of corn, "You have cut the navel- 
string." ^ In some districts of West Prussia the figure 
made out of the last sheaf is called the Bastard, and a boy 
is wrapt up in it. The woman who binds the last sheaf 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 336. ■* W. Mannhardt, Die Kornddmo7ten 

2 //--. p. 336. p. 28. 
^ /i''. p. 336 ; BaiiDikitUiis, p. 612. 


and represents the Corn-mother, is told that she is about 
to be brought to bed ; she cries Hke a woman in travail, 
and an old woman in the character of grandmother 
acts as midwife. At last a cry is raised that the child 
is born ; whereupon the boy who is tied up in the 
sheaf whimpers and squalls like an infant. The grand- 
mother wraps a sack, in imitation of swaddling bands, 
round the pretended baby, and it is carried joyfully to 
the barn, lest it catch cold in the open air.^ In other 
parts of North Germany, the last sheaf, or the puppet 
made out of it, is called the Child, the Harvest Child, 
etc. In the North of England the last handful of 
corn was cut by the prettiest girl and dressed up as 
the Corn Baby or Kern Baby ; it was brought home 
to music, set up in a conspicuous place at the harvest 
supper, and generally kept in the parlour for the rest of 
the year. The girl who cut it was the Harvest Queen.- 
In Kent the Ivy Girl is (or was) "a figure composed of 
some of the best corn the field produces, and made as 
well as they can into a human shape ; this is afterwards 
curiously dressed by the women, and adorned with 
paper trimmings, cut to resemble a cap, rufiies, hand- 
kerchief, etc., of the finest lace. It is brought home 
with the last load of corn from the field upon the wag- 
gon, and they suppose entitles them to a supper at the 
expense of the employer."" In the neighbourhood of 
Balquhidder, Perthshire, the last handful of corn is cut 
by the youngest girl on the field, and is made into the 
rude form of a female doll, clad in a paper dress, and 
decked with ribbons. It is called the Maiden, and is 
kept in the farmhouse, generally above the chimney, 

1 W. Mannhardt, I.e. ed. ; Chambers's Book of Days, ii. 

2 lb. ; Henderson, Folk-lore of the 377 sq. Cp. Folk-loi-e Journal, vii. 
Northern Counties, p. 87 ; Brand, 50. 

Popular Antiquities, ii. 20, Bohn's ^ Brand, op. cit. ii. 21 sq. 


for a good while, sometimes till the Maiden of the next 
year is brought in. The writer of this book witnessed 
the ceremony of cutting the Maiden at Balquhidder in 
September 1888.^ On some farms on the Gareloch, 
Dumbartonshire, about sixty years ago the last hand- 
ful of standing corn was called the Maiden. It was 
divided in two, plaited, and then cut with the sickle by 
a girl, who, it was thought, would be lucky and would 
soon be married. When it was cut the reapers 
gathered together and threw their sickles in the air. 
The Maiden was dressed with ribbons and hung in the 
kitchen near the roof, where it was kept for several 
years with the date attached. Sometimes five or six 
Maidens might be seen hanging at once on hooks. 
The harvest supper was called the Kirn." In other 
farms on the Gareloch the last handful of corn was 
called the Maidenhead or the Head ; it was neatly 
plaited, sometimes decked with ribbons, and hung in 
the kitchen for a year, when the grain was given to 
the poultry.^ In the North of Scodand, the Maiden 
is kept till Christmas morning, and then divided 
among the cattle " to make them thrive all the year 
round."'* In Aberdeenshire also the last sheaf (called 
the clyack sheaf) was formerly cut, as it is still cut at 
Balquhidder, by the youngest girl on the field ; then 
it was dressed in woman's clothes, carried home in 
triumph, and kept till Christmas or New Year's morn- 
ing, when it was given to a mare in foal, or, failing 
such, to the oldest cow.^ Lastly, a somewhat maturer, 
but still youthful age is assigned to the corn-spirit by 

1 Folk-lore Journal, vi. 268^(7. ■* }'s.-a\\&%ox\. Dictionary of the Scottish 

2 From information supplied by Language, s. v. "Maiden." 

Archie Leitch, gardener, Rowmore, ^ W. Gregor, in Revue des Traditions 

Garelochhead. populaires, iii. 533 (485 B) ; id., Folk- 

3 Communicated by Mr. Macfarlane lore of the North- East of Scotland, p. 
of Faslane, Gareloch. 1 82. An old Scottish name for the 


the appellations of Bride, Oats-bride, and Wheat-bride, 
which in Germany and Scotland are sometimes be- 
stowed both on the last sheaf and on the woman who 
binds it.^ Sometimes the idea implied in these names 
is worked out more fully by representing the produc- 
tive powers of vegetation as bride and bridegroom, 
Thus in some parts of Germany a man and woman 
dressed in straw and called the Oats -wife and the 
Oats-man, or the Oats-bride and the Oats-bridegroom 
dance at the harvest festival ; then the corn-stalks are 
plucked from their bodies till they stand as bare as a 
stubble field. In Silesia, the woman who binds the 
last sheaf is called the Wheat-bride or the Oats-bride. 
With the harvest crown on her head, a bridegroom by 
her side, and attended by bridesmaids, she is brought 
to the farmhouse with all the solemnity of a wedding 

The harvest customs just described are strikingly 
analogous to the spring customs which we reviewed in 
the first chapter, (i.) As in the spring customs the tree- 
spirit is represented both by a tree and by a person,^ 
so in the harvest customs the corn-spirit is represented 
both by the last sheaf and by the person who cuts or 
binds or threshes it. The equivalence of the person to 
the sheaf is shown by giving him or her the same name 
as the sheaf, or vice ve7^sd ; by wrapping him or her in 
the sheaf ; and by the rule observed in some places, 
that when the sheaf is called the Mother, it must be 
cut by the oldest married woman ; but when it is called 

Maiden (aiitunmalis iiymphula) was ^ W. Mannhardt, Die Kornddnioneii, 

Rapegyme. See Fordun, Scotichron. p. 30 ; Folk-lore Journal, vii. 50. 
ii. 418, quoted in Jamieson's Diet. - W. Mannhardt, I.e. ; Sommer, 

of the Scottish Language, s. v. "Rape- Sagen, Alarcheii und Gebrduche aus 
gyrne." Sachsen und Thiiringen, p. 160 sq. 

^ See above, p. 83 sqq. 


the Maiden, it must be cut by the youngest girl.^ 
Here the age of the personal representative of the 
corn-spirit corresponds with that of the supposed age 
of the corn-spirit, just as the human victims offered by 
the Mexicans to promote the growth of the maize 
varied with the age of the maize.' For in the Mexican, 
as in the European, custom the human beings were 
probably representatives of the corn-spirit rather than 
victims offered to him. (2.) Again, the same fertilising 
influence which the tree-spirit is supposed to exert over 
vegetation, cattle, and even women ^ is ascribed to the 
corn-spirit. Thus, its supposed influence on vegeta- 
tion is shown by the practice of taking some of the 
grain of the last sheaf (in which the corn-spirit is regu- 
larly supposed to be present), and scattering it among 
the young corn in spring."* Its influence on cattle is 
shown by giving the straw of the last sheaf to the 
cattle at Christmas with the express intention of mak- 
ing them thrive.^ Lastly, its influence on women is 
indicated by the custom of delivering the Mother-sheaf, 
made into the likeness of a pregnant woman, to the 
farmer's wife \^ by the belief that the woman who binds 
the last sheaf will have a child next year ;^ perhaps, 
too, by the idea that the person who gets it will marry 
next year.*^ 

Plainly, therefore, these spring and harvest customs 
are based on the same ancient modes of thought, and 
form parts of the same primitive heathendom, which 
was doubtless practised by our forefathers long before 
the dawn of history, as it is practised to this day by 

1 Above, pp. 333, 344. ^ See above, p. 335 sq. 

2 Above, p. 307. " Above, p. 340 ; cp. Kuhn, West- 

3 Above, p. 67 sqq. fdlische Sagen, Gebrditche unci Mdrcheii, 
* Above, pp. 334, 335. ii. No. 516. 

5 Above, pp. 334, 345- * Above, pp. 336, 337, 345. 


many of their descendants. Amongst the marks of 
a primitive rehgion, we may note the following : — 

(i.) No special class of persons is set apart for the 
performance of the rites ; in other words, there are no 
priests. The rites may be performed by any one, as 
occasion demands. 

(2.) No special places are set apart for the per- 
formance of the rites ; in other words, there are no 
temples. The rites may be performed anywhere, as 
occasion demands. 

(3.) Spirits, not gods, are recognised, {a) As 
distinguished from gods, spirits are restricted in their 
operations to definite departments of nature. Their 
names are general, not proper. Their attributes are 
generic, rather than individual ; in other words, there 
is an indefinite number of spirits of each class, and the 
individuals of a class are all much alike ; they have no 
definitely marked individuality ; no accepted traditions 
are current as to their origin, life, adventures, and 
character, {b) On the other hand gods, as distin- 
guished from spirits, are not exclusively restricted in 
their operations to definite departments of nature. It 
is true that there is generally some one department 
over which they preside as their special province ; but 
they are not rigorously confined to it ; they can exert 
their power for good or evil in many other spheres of 
nature and life. Again, they bear individual or proper 
names, such as Ceres, Proserpine, Bacchus ; and their 
individual characters and histories are fixed by current 
myths and the representations of art. 

(4.) The rites are magical rather than propitiatory. 
In other words, the desired objects are attained, not by 
propitiating the favour of divine beings through sacri- 
fice, prayer, and praise, but by ceremonies which, as has 


been explained,^ are believed to influence the course of 
nature directly through a physical sympathy or resem- 
blance between the rite and the effect which it is the 
intention of the rite to produce. 

Judged by these tests, the spring and harvest customs 
of our European peasantry deserve to rank as primitive. 
For no special class of persons and no special places 
are set exclusively apart for their performance ; they 
may be performed by any one, master or man, mistress 
or maid, boy or girl ; they are practised, not in temples 
or churches, but in the woods and meadows, beside 
brooks, in barns, on harvest fields and cottage floors. 
The supernatural beings whose existence is taken for 
granted in them are spirits rather than deities ; their 
functions are limited to certain well-defined departments 
of nature ; their names are general, like the Barley- 
mother, the Old Woman, the Maiden, not proper names 
like Ceres, Proserpine, Bacchus. Their generic attri- 
butes are known, but their individual histories and 
characters are not the subject of myths. For they 
exist in classes rather than as individuals, and the 
members of each class are indistinguishable. For 
example, every farm has its Corn-mother, or its Old 
Woman, or its Maiden ; but every Corn-mother is much 
like every other Corn-mother, and so with the Old 
Women and Maidens. Lastly, in these harvest, as in 
the spring, customs, the ritual is magical rather than 
propitiatory. This is shown by throwing the Corn- 
mother into the river in order to secure rain and dew 
for the crops ;' by making the Old Woman heavy in 
order to get a heavy crop next year ; ^ by strewing 
grain from the last sheaf amongst the young crops in 

1 .See above, p. 9 sqq. ^ Above, p. 341. ^ Above, p. 338. 


Spring ; ^ and giving the last sheaf to the cattle to 
make them thrive." 

Further, the custom of keeping the puppet — the 
representative of the corn-spirit — till next harvest, is a 
charm to maintain the corn -spirit in life and activity 
throughout the year.^ This is proved by a similar cus- 
tom observed by the ancient Peruvians, and thus de- 
scribed by the historian Acosta. " They take a certain 
portion of the most fruitefull of the Mays [i.e. maize] 
that growes in their farmes, the which they put in a 
certaine granary which they doe call Pirtta, with certaine 
ceremonies, watching three nightes ; they put this Mays 
in the richest garments they have, and beeing thus 
wrapped and dressed, they worship this Pirzta, and 
hold it in great veneration, saying it is the mother of 
the mays of their inheritances, and that by this means 
the mays augments and is preserved. In this moneth 
[the sixth month, answering to May] they make a par- 
ticular sacrifice, and the witches demaund of this Pima, 
if it hath strength sufficient to continue untill the next 
yeare; and if it answers no, then they carry this Mays to 
the farme to burne, whence they brought it, according 
to every man's power ; then they make another Pu'ua, 
with the same ceremonies, saying that they renue it, 
to the end the seede of Mays may not perish, and if 
it answers that it hath force sufficient to last longer, 
they leave it untill the next yeare. This foolish vanity 
continueth to this day, and it is very common amongest 
the Indians to have these Piruasy ^ There seems to 

1 Above, p. 334, cp. 335. Wendisches Volksthum, p. 147. In 

2 Above, pp. 334, 345. Inverness and Sutherland the Maiden 

3 Above, p. 344 J'/. ; W. Mannhardt, is kept till the next harvest. Folk- 
A'orndd»!0)icn,'pV-T^^^- Amongst the lore Jot{nial,\\\. $0, SZ^<}' Cp. Kuhn, 
Wends the last sheaf, made into a Westflilische Sagen, Gebrduche und 
puppet and called the Old Man, is Mdrchen, ii. Nos. 501, 517. 

hung in the hall till next year's Old 'i Kzo%^:i., Hist, of the Indies, y. z. 2%, 

Man is brought in. Schulenburg, vol. ii. p. 374 (Hakluyt Society, 1880). 


be some error in this description of the custom. Prob- 
ably it was the dressed-up bunch of maize, not the 
granary (Pirua), which was worshipped by the Peru- 
vians and regarded as the Mother of the Maize. This 
is confirmed by what we know of the Peruvian custom 
from another source. The Peruvians, we are told, 
believed all useful plants to be animated by a divine 
being who causes their growth. According to the 
particular plant, these divine beings were called the 
Maize - mother i^Zara-^nama), the Ouinoa - mother 
(Oitinoa-uiajfia), the Cocoa-mother (Coca-mama), and 
the Potato -mother iyAxo-mama). Figures of these 
divine mothers were made respectively of ears of 
maize and leaves of the quinoa and cocoa plants ; they 
were dressed in women's clothes and worshipped. 
Thus the Maize-mother was represented by a puppet 
made of stalks of maize, dressed in full female attire ; 
and the Indians believed that "as mother, it had the 
power of producing and giving birth to much mxaize."^ 
Probably, therefore, Acosta misunderstood his inform- 
ant, and the Mother of the Maize which he describes 
was not the granary (Pirua) but the bunch of maize 
dressed in rich vestments. The Peruvian Mother of 
the Maize, like the harvest Maiden at Balquhidder, 
was kept for a year in order that by her means the 
corn might grow and multiply. But lest her strength 
might not suffice to last out the year, she was asked in 
the course of the year how she felt, and if she answered 
that she felt weak, she was burned and a fresh Mother 
of the Maize made, "to the end the seede of Mays 

1 W. Mannhardt, MyOiol. Forsch. Pedro de Villagomez, Archbishop of 

p. 342 sq. Mannhardt's authority is a Lima, published at Lima in 1649, and 

S'panish. ixzci (Carla pastoral de exorta- communicated to Mannhardt by J. J. 

cion e instruccion contra las idolatrias de v. Tschudi. 
los Indios del ar^obispado de Litna) by 


may not perish." Here, it may be observed, we have 
a strong confirmation of the explanation already given 
of the custom of killing the god, both periodically and 
occasionally. The Mother of the Maize was allowed, 
as a rule, to live through a year, that being the period 
during which her strength might reasonably be sup- 
posed to last unimpaired ; but on any symptom of her 
strength failing she was put to death and a fresh and 
vigorous Mother of the Maize took her place, lest 
the maize which depended on her for its existence 
should languish and decay. 

Hardly less clearly does the same train of thought 
come out in the harvest customs formerly observed 
by the Zapotecs of Mexico. At harvest the priests, 
attended by the nobles and people, went in procession 
to the maize fields, where they picked out the largest 
and finest sheaf. This they took with great ceremony 
to the town or village, and placed it in the temple upon 
an altar adorned with wild flowers. After sacrificing 
to the harvest god, the priests carefully wrapt up the 
sheaf in fine linen and kept it till seed-time. Then the 
priests and nobles met again at the temple, one of them 
bringing the skin of a wild beast, elaborately orna- 
mented, in which the linen cloth containing the sheaf 
was enveloped. The sheaf was then carried once 
more in procession to the field from which it had been 
taken. Here a small cavity or subterranean chamber 
had been prepared, in which the precious sheaf was 
deposited, wrapt in its various envelopes. After 
sacrifice had been offered to the gods of the fields for 
an abundant crop, the chamber was closed and covered 
over with earth. Immediately thereafter the sowing 
began. Finally, when the time of harvest drew near, 
the buried sheaf was solemnly disinterred by the 


priests, who distributed the grain to all who asked for 
it. The packets of grain so distributed were carefully 
preserved as talismans till the harvest.^ In these 
ceremonies, which continued to be annually celebrated 
long after the Spanish conquest, the intention of keep- 
ing the finest sheaf buried in the maize field from seed- 
time to harvest was undoubtedly to quicken the growth 
of the maize. 

In the Punjaub, to the east of the Jumna, when 
the cotton boles besfin to burst, it is usual " to select 


the largest plant in the field, and having sprinkled it 
with butter-milk and rice-water, it is bound all over 
with pieces of cotton, taken from the other plants of 
the field. This selected plant is called Sirdar, or 
Bhogaldai, i.e. mother-cotton, from bhogla, a name 
sometimes given to a large cotton -pod, and dai (for 
daiya) a mother, and after salutations are made to it, 
prayers are offered that the other plants may resemble 
it in the richness of their produce." "- 

If the reader still feels any doubts as to the 
original meaning of the harvest customs practised 
by our peasantry, these doubts may be dispelled by 
comparing the harvest customs of the Dyaks of Borneo. 
At harvest the Dyaks of Northern Borneo have a 
special feast, the object of which is "to secure the soul 
of the rice, which if not so detained, the produce of 
their farms would speedily rot and decay." The mode 
of securing the soul of the rice varies in different 
tribes. Sometimes the priest catches it, in the form 
of a few grains of rice, in a white cloth. Sometimes 
a large shed is erected outside the village, and near it 

1 Brasseur de Bourbourg, Histoire des sary of Terms used in /he North IVesi- 
Nations civilisks du Mexiqtie,\\\. dfi sqq. em Provinees, ^d^X.^^ by J. Beanies, i. 

2 H. M. Elliot, Supplemental Glos- 254. 

VOL. I 2 A 

354 SOUL OF THE RICE chap. 

is reared a high and spacious altar. The corner- 
posts of the altar are lofty bamboos with leafy tops, 
from one of which there hangs a long narrow streamer 
of white cloth. Here gaily-dressed men and women 
dance with slow and solemn steps. Suddenly the 
elders and priests rush at the white streamer, seize 
the end of it, and begin dancing and swaying to and 
fro, amid a burst of wild music and the yells of the 
spectators. An elder leaps on the altar and shakes 
the bamboos violently, whereupon small stones, bunches 
of hair and grains of rice fall at the feet of the dancers 
and are carefully picked up by attendants. These 
grains of rice are the soul of the rice. At sowing- 
time some of this soul of the rice is planted with the 
other seeds, "and is thus propagated and communi- 
cated." ^ The same need of securing the soul of the 
rice, if the crop is to thrive, is keenly felt by the 
Karens of Burma. When a rice-field does not 
flourish, they suppose that the soul {kelah) of the 
rice is in some way detained from the rice. If the 
soul cannot be called back, the crop will fail. The 
following formula is used in recalling the kelah (soul) 
of the rice: "O come, ncQ-kelah, come! Come 
to the field. Come to the rice. With seed of each 
gender, come. Come from the river Kho, come from 
the river Kaw ; from the place where they meet, come. 
Come from the West, come from the East. From the 
throat of the bird, from the maw of the ape, from the 
throat of the elephant. Come from the sources of rivers 
and their mouths. Come from the country of the 
Shan and Burman. From the distant kingdoms come. 
From all granaries come. O ncQ-kclaJi, come to the 

1 Spenser St. John, Life in the Forests of the Far East,- i. 187, 192 sqq. 


rice."^ Again, the European custom of representing the 
corn-spirit in the double form of bride and bridegroom ^ 
is paralleled by a custom observed at the rice-harvest 
in Java. Before the reapers begin to cut the rice, the 
priest or sorcerer picks out a number of ears of rice, 
which are tied together, smeared with ointment, and 
adorned with flowers. Thus decked out, the ears are 
called the padi-pengantht, that is, the Rice-bride and 
the Rice-bridegroom ; their wedding feast is celebrated, 
and the cutting of the rice begins immediately after- 
wards. Later on, when the rice is being got in, a 
bridal chamber is partitioned off in the barn, and 
furnished with a new mat, a lamp, and all kinds of 
toilet articles. Sheaves of rice, to represent the 
wedding guests, are placed beside the Rice - bride 
and the Rice - brides^room. Not till this has been 
done may the whole harvest be housed in the barn. 
And for the first forty days after the rice has been 
housed, no one may enter the barn, for fear of dis- 
turbing the newly-wedded pair.^ 

Compared with the Corn-mother of Germany and 
the harvest Maiden of Balquhidder, the Demeter and 
Proserpine of Greece are late products of religious 
growth. But, as Aryans, the Greeks must at one time 
or another have observed harvest customs like those 
which are still practised by Celts, Teutons, and Slavs, 
and which, far beyond the limits of the Aryan world, 
have been practised by the Incas of Peru, the Dyaks 
of Borneo, and the Malays of Java — a sufficient proof 
that the ideas on which these customs rest are not con- 
fined to any one race, but naturally suggest themselves 

1 E. B. Cross, "On the Karens," - See above, p. 346. 

\i\ Journal of the American Oriental ^ Veth, /az'a, i. 524-526. 

Society, iv. 309. 


to all untutored peoples engaged in agriculture. It is 
probable, therefore, that Demeter and Proserpine, 
those stately and beautiful figures of Greek mythology, 
grew out of the same simple beliefs and practices 
which still prevail among our modern peasantry, and 
that they were represented by rude dolls made out 
of the yellow sheaves on many a harvest -field long 
before their breathing images were wrought in bronze 
and marble by the master hands of Phidias and Praxi- 
teles. A reminiscence of that olden time — a scent, so 
to say, of the harvest-field — lingered to the last in the 
tide of the Maiden {Kore) by which Proserpine was 
commonly known. Thus if the prototype of Demeter 
is the Corn -mother of Germany, the prototype of 
Proserpine is the harvest Maiden, which, autumn after 
autumn, is still made from the last sheaf on the Braes 
of Balquhidder. Indeed if we knew more about the 
peasant -farmers of ancient Greece we should prob- 
ably find that even in classical times they continued 
annually to fashion their Corn - mothers (Demeters) 
and Maidens (Proserpines) out of the ripe corn on 
the harvest fields. But unfortunately the Demeter 
and Proserpine whom we know are the denizens of 
towns, the majestic inhabitants of lordly temples ; 
it was for such divinities alone that the refined 
writers of antiquity had eyes ; the rude rites per- 
formed by rustics amongst the corn were beneath 
their notice. Even if they noticed them, they prob- 
ably never dreamed of any connection between the 
puppet of corn-stalks on the sunny stubble-field and 
the marble divinity in the shady coolness of the temple. 
Sdll the writings even of these town-bred and cultured 
persons afford us an occasional glimpse of a Demeter 
as rude as the rudest that a remote German village 


can show. Thus the story that lasion begat a child 
Plutus ("wealth," "abundance") by Demeter on a 
thrice-ploughed field, ^ may be compared with the West 
Prussian custom of the mock birth of a child on the 
harvest held.' In this Prussian custom the pretended 
mother represents the Corn -mother {Zytniainatka) ; 
the pretended child represents the Corn -baby, and 
the whole ceremony is a charm to ensure a crop 
next year.^ There are other folk - customs, ob- 
served both in spring and at harvest, with which 
the legend of the begetting of the child Plutus 
is probably still more intimately connected. Their 
general purport is to impart fertility to the fields by 
performing, or at least mimicking, upon them the pro- 
cess of procreation.^ Another glimpse of the savage 
under the civilised Demeter will be afforded farther 
on, when we come to deal with another aspect of these 
agricultural divinities. 

The reader may have observed that in modern 
folk -customs the corn -spirit is generally represented 
either by a Corn -mother (Old Woman, etc.) or by a 
Maiden (Corn-baby, etc.), not both by a Corn-mother 

^ Homer, Od. v. 125 sqq.; Hesiod, not have been a harvest celebration, but 
Theog. 969 sqq. may have been a vintage one. Amongst 

2 See above, p. 343 sq. 

the Minnitarees in North America, the 
Prince of Neuwied saw a tall strong 

'^ It is possible that a ceremony per- woman pretend to bring up a stalk of 

formed in a Cyprian worship of Ariadne maize out of her stomach ; the object 

may have been of this nature. Plut- of the ceremony was to secure a good 

arch, Theseus, 20, iv drj rrj dvaia tou crop of maize in the following year. 

Topviaiov ix-qvos Iffrafievov Sevripa Kara- Maximilian, Prinz zu Wied, J?e/se in 

K\Lv6iJ.evov TLva tCjv veaviaKuv (pOeyyecrdat das innere JVord-At?terika, ii. 269. 

Kal woielv direp didcvovaaL ywacKes. We * W. Mannhardt, Bau77ikiiltus, pp. 

have already seen grounds for regarding 468 sq., 480 sqq.; id., Antike Wald- 

Ariadne as a goddess or spirit of vegeta- 7ind Feldkidte, p. 288 sq. ; id.,Mytholog- 

tion (above, p. 104). If, however, the ische Forschitngcn, pp. 146 sqq., 340 

reference is to the Syro- Macedonian sqq.; N'^wYioiweW, Ambon en de Oelia- 

calendar, in which Gorpiaeus corres- sers, p. 62 sq. ; Wilken, in Indische 

ponds to September (Daremberg et <?/</r, June 1884, pp. 958, 963 j-^. Cp. 

Saglio, i. 831), the ceremony could Marco Polo, trans. Yule,^ i. 212 5^. 


and by a Maiden. Why then did the Greeks repre- 
sent the corn both as a mother and a daughter? In 
the Breton custom the mother-sheaf — a large figure 
made out of the last sheaf with a small corn-doll inside 
of it^clearly represents both the Corn-mother and the 
Corn-daughter, the latter still unborn.^ Again, in the 
Prussian custom just described, the woman who plays 
the part of Corn-mother represents the ripe corn ; the 
child appears to represent next year's corn, which may 
be regarded, naturally enough, as the child of this 
year's corn, since it is from the seed of this year's 
harvest that next year's corn will spring. Demeter 
would thus be the ripe corn of this year ; Proserpine 
the seed-corn taken from it and sown in autumn, to 
reappear in spring. The descent of Proserpine into 
the lower world ■ would thus be a mythical expres- 
sion for the sowing of the seed ; her reappearance 
in spring ^ would express the sprouting of the young 
corn. Thus the Proserpine of this year becomes 
the Demeter of the next, and this may very well 
have been the original form of the myth. But 
when with the advance of religious thought the 
corn came to be personified, no longer as a being 
that went through the whole cycle of birth, growth, 
reproduction, and death within a year, but as an 
immortal goddess, consistency requires that one of 
the two personifications, the mother or the daughter, 
should be sacrificed. But the double conception of 
the corn as mother and daughter was too old and too 

1 See above, p. 335 sq. sowing. But in Sicily her descent 

2 Cp. Preller, Griech. Mytliol.^ i. seems to have been celebrated when 
628, note 3. In Greece the annual de- the corn was fully ripe (Diodorus, v. 4), 
scent of Proserpine appears to have that is, in summer. 

taken place at the Great Eleusinian 3 Homer, Hymn to Dcmctci\ 401 

Mysteries and at the Thesmophoria, sqq.; Preller, I.e. 
that is, about the time of the autumn 


deeply rooted in the popular mind to be eradicated by 
logic, and so room had to be found in the reformed 
myth both for mother and daughter. This was done 
by assigning to Proserpine the role of the corn sown in 
autumn and sprouting in spring, while Demeter was 
left to play the somewhat vague and ill-defined part of 
mother of the corn, who laments its annual disappear- 
ance underground, and rejoices over its reappearance 
in spring. Thus instead of a regular succession of 
divine beings, each living a year and then giving birth 
to her successor, the reformed myth exhibits the con- 
ception of two divine and immortal beings, one of 
whom annually disappears into and reappears from the 
ground, while the other has little to do but to weep 
and rejoice at the appropriate times. 

This explanation of the double personification of 
the corn in Greek myth assumes that both personi- 
fications (Demeter and Proserpine) are original. 
But if we assume that the Greek myth started with a 
single personification, the after-growth of a second 
personification may perhaps be explained as follows. 
On looking over the peasant harvest customs which 
have been passed under review, it may be noticed that 
they involve two distinct conceptions of the corn- 
spirit. For whereas in some of the customs the corn- 
spirit is treated as immanent in the corn, in others it is 
regarded as external to it. Thus when a particular 
sheaf is called by the name of the corn -spirit, and 
is dressed in clothes and treated with reverence,^ 
the corn -spirit is clearly regarded as immanent in 
the corn. But when the corn -spirit is said to make 

1 In some places it was customary da mo nc 11, 26 ; id., MytJiolog. For- 
to kneel down before the last sheaf, in schungcii, p. 339; Folk-lore Journal, vi. 
others to kiss it. W, Mannhardt, Korii- 270. 


the corn grow by passing through it, or to blight the 
corn of those against whom she has a grudge/ she 
is clearly conceived as quite separate from, though 
exercising power over, the corn. Conceived in the 
latter way the corn-spirit is in a fair way to become a 
deity of the corn, if she has not become so already. 
Of these two conceptions, that of the corn-spirit as 
immanent in the corn is doubtless the older, since the 
view of nature as animated by indwelling spirits 
appears to have generally preceded the view of it as 
controlled by deities external to it ; to put it shortly, 
animism precedes deism. In the harvest customs of 
our European peasantry the conception of the corn- 
spirit as immanent appears to be the prevalent one ; 
the conception of it as external occurs rather as an 
exception. In Greek mythology, on the other hand, 
Demeter is distinctly conceived in the latter way ; she 
is the deity of the corn rather than the spirit immanent 
in it.- The process of thought which seems to be 
chiefly instrumental in producing the transition from 
the one mode of conception to the other is anthropo- 
morphism, or the gradual investment of the immanent 
spirits with more and more of the attributes of 
humanity. As men emerge from savagery the ten- 
dency to anthropomorphise or humanise their divinities 
gains strength ; and the more anthropomorphic these 
become, the wider is the breach which severs them 
from those natural objects of which they were at first 
merely the animating spirits or souls. But in the 
progress upwards from savagery, men of the same 
generation do not march abreast ; and though the 
anthropomorphic gods may satisfy the religious wants 

1 Above, p. 332 sq. she is represented as controlling the 

^ In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, growth of the corn. See above, p. 331. 


of more advanced individuals, the more backward 
members of the community will cling by preference to 
the older animistic notions. Now when the spirit of 
any natural object (as the corn) has been invested with 
human qualities, detached from the object, and con- 
verted into a deity controlling it, the object itself is, by 
the withdrawal of its spirit, left inanimate, it becomes, 
so to say, a spiritual vacuum. But the popular fancy, 
intolerant of such a vacuum, in other words, unable to 
conceive anything as inanimate, immediately creates a 
fresh mythical being, with which it peoples the vacant 
object. Thus the same natural object is now repre- 
sented in mythology by two separate beings ; first, by 
the old spirit now separated from it and raised to the 
rank of a deity ; second, by the new spirit, freshly 
created by the popular fancy to supply the place 
vacated by the old spirit on its elevation to a higher 
sphere. The problem for mythology now is, having 
got two separate personifications of the same object, 
what to do with them ? How are their relations to 
each other to be adjusted, and room found for both in 
the mythological system ? When the old spirit or new 
deity is conceived as creating or producing the object 
in question, the problem is easily solved. Since the 
object is believed to be produced by the old spirit, and 
animated by the new one, the latter, as the soul of the 
object, must also owe its existence to the former ; thus 
the old spirit will stand to the new one as producer to 
produced, that is (in mythology), as parent to child, 
and if both spirits are conceived as female, their relation 
will be that of mother and daughter. In this way, start- 
ing from a single personification of the corn as female, 
mythology might in time reach a double personification 
of it as mother and daughter. It would be very rash 


to affirm that this was the way in which the myth of 
Demeter and Proserpine actually took shape ; but it 
seems a legitimate conjecture that the reduplication of 
deities, of which Demeter and Proserpine furnish an 
example, may sometimes have arisen in the way indi- 
cated. For example, among the pairs of deities whom 
we have been considering, it has been shown that 
there are grounds for regarding both I sis and her 
companion god Osiris as personifications of the corn.^ 
On the hypothesis just suggested, I sis would be the 
old corn -spirit, and Osiris would be the newer one, 
whose relationship to the old spirit was variously 
explained as that of brother, husband, and son ; - for 
of course mythology would always be free to account 
for the coexistence of the two divinities in more ways 
than one. Further, this hypothesis offers at least a 
possible explanation of the relation of Virbius to 
the Arician Diana. The latter, as we have seen,^ 
was a tree -goddess ; and if, as I have conjectured, 
the Flamen Virbialis was no other than the priest 
of Nemi himself, that is, the King of the Wood, 
Virbius must also have been a tree-spirit. On the 
present hypothesis he was the newer tree - spirit, 
whose relation to the old tree-spirit (Diana) was ex- 
plained by representing him as her favourite or 
lover. It must not, however, be forgotten that this 
proposed explanation of such pairs of deities as 
Demeter and Proserpine, Isis and Osiris, Diana and 
Virbius, is purely conjectural, and is only given for 
what it is worth. 

1 See above, pp. 305 sqq., 309 sqq. 

^ Vz.\\\y, Real-Ejicyciopddie der class. Alterthumswiss. v. loii. 

3 Above, p. 105 sq. 


§ 9. — Lityerses 

In the preceding pages an attempt has been made 
to show that in the Corn-mother and harvest Maiden of 
Northern Europe we have the prototypes of Demeter 
and Proserpine. But an essential feature is still want- 
ing to complete the resemblance. A leading incident 
in the Greek myth is the death and resurrection of 
Proserpine ; it is this incident which, coupled with the 
nature of the goddess as a deity of vegetation, links 
the myth with the cults of Adonis, Attis, Osiris, and 
Dionysus ; and it is in virtue of this incident that the 
myth is considered in this chapter. It remains, there- 
fore, to see whether the conception of the annual death 
and resurrection of a god, which figures so prominently 
in these great Greek and Oriental worships, has not 
also its origin in the rustic rites observed by reapers 
and vine -dressers amongst the corn -shocks and the 

Our general ignorance of the popular supersti- 
tions and customs of the ancients has already been 
confessed. But the obscurity which thus hangs 
over the first beginnings of ancient religion is fortun- 
ately dissipated to some extent in the present case. 
The worships of Osiris, Adonis, and Attis had their re- 
spective seats, as we have seen, in Egypt, Syria, and 
Phrygia ; and in each of these countries certain harvest 
and vintage customs are known to have been observed, 
the resemblance of which to each other and to the 
national rites struck the ancients themselves, and, com- 
pared with the harvest customs of modern peasants and 
barbarians, seem to throw some light on the origin of 
the rites in question. 


It has been already mentioned, on the authority of 
Diodorus, that in ancient Egypt the reapers were 
wont to lament over the first sheaf cut, invoking 
I sis as the goddess to whom they owed the discovery 
of corn.^ To the plaintive song or cry sung or uttered 
by Egyptian reapers the Greeks gave the name of 
Maneros, and explained the name by a story that 
Maneros, the only son of the first Egyptian king, 
invented agriculture, and, dying an untimely death, was 
thus lamented by the people.' It appears, however, that 
the name Maneros is due to a misunderstanding of the 
{oxm\A?i mcid-ne-hra, "come thou back," which has been 
discovered in various Egyptian writings, for example 
in the dirge of Isis in the Book of the Dead.^ Hence 
we may suppose that the cry mdd-ne-hra was chanted 
by the reapers over the cut corn as a dirge for the 
death of the corn-spirit (Isis or Osiris) and a prayer 
for its return. As the cry was raised over the first ears 
reaped, it would seem that the corn-spirit was believed 
by the Egyptians to be present in the first corn cut and 
to die under the sickle. We have seen that in Java 
the first ears of rice are taken to represent the Corn- 
bride and the Corn-bridegroom.^ In parts of Russia 
the first sheaf is treated much in the same way that 
the last sheaf is treated elsewhere. It is reaped by the 
mistress herself, taken home and set in the place of 
honour near the holy pictures ; afterwards it is threshed 
separately, and some of its grain is mixed with the 
next year's seed-corn.^ 

1 Diodorus, i. 14, ^rt 70,/) /cat vvv 2 Herodotus, ii. 79 ; Pollux, iv. 54 ; 

Kara tov Sepifffibv tovs irptoTovs dpLrjOivTas Pausanias, ix. 29 ; Athenaeus, 620 A. 

ffTaxvs devras rovs avOpihwovs KovTeffdai. ^ Br\igsc\\,AdonisklageuiidLiiioslied, 

TrXrjaiov TOV 8pdy/jiaTos K.T.X. For divras P- 24. 

we should perhaps read (Tw^evTas, which ■* Above, p. 355. 

is supported by the following dpdy- „ '^^^^5'°"' -^'""^^^ "^ ^^"^ Russian 

People, p. 249 sq. 


In Phoenicia and Western Asia a plaintive song, like 
that chanted by the Egyptian corn-reapers, was sung 
at the vintage and probably (to judge by analogy) also 
at harvest. This Phoenician song was called by the 
Greeks Linus or Ailinus and explained, like Maneros, 
as a lament for the death of a youth named Linus.^ 
According to one story Linus was brought up by a 
shepherd, but torn to pieces by his dogs.' But, like 
Maneros, the name Linus or Ailinus appears to have 
originated in a verbal misunderstanding, and to be 
nothing more than the cry ai lauti, that is " woe to us," 
which the Phoenicians probably uttered in mourning 
for Adonis ; ^ at least Sappho seems to have regarded 
Adonis and Linus as equivalent.-^ 

In Bithynia a like mournful ditty, called Bormus 
or Borimus, was chanted by Mariandynian reapers. 
Bormus was said to have been a handsome youth, the 
son of King Upias or of a wealthy and distinguished 
man. One summer day, watching the reapers at work 
in his fields, he went to fetch them a drink of water 
and was never heard of more. So the reapers sought 
for him, calling him in plaintive strains, which they 
continued to use ever afterwards.^ 

In Phrygia the corresponding song, sung by 
harvesters both at reaping and at threshing, was called 
Lityerses. According to one story, Lityerses was a 
bastard son of Midas, King of Phrygia. He used to 
reap the corn, and had an enormous appetite. When 
a stranger happened to enter the corn-field or to pass 

1 Homer, //. xviii. 570; Herodotus, - Conon, Lc. 

ii. 79; Pausanias, ix. 29; Conon, 3 \v. Mannhardt, .-/. W. F. p. 28 1. 

NarraL 19. For the form Ailinus , p,,,,,^;,^, ,.,. 
see buidas, s.v. ; Euripides, Orestes, 

1395; Sophocles, AJax, eij. Cp. ^ PoUux, iv. 54 ; Athenaeus, 619 F, 

Aloschus, Idyl. iii. I ; Callimachus, 620 A ; Hesychius, svv. 'KGipixov and 

Hym?i to Apollo, 20. ^lapiavdwos dpTjvos. 


by it, Lityerses gave him plenty to eat and drink, then 
took him to the corn-fields on the banks of the Maeander 
and compelled him to reap along with him. Lastly, 
he used to wrap the stranger in a sheaf, cut off his 
head with a sickle, and carry away his body, wrapt 
in the corn stalks. But at last he was himself slain by 
Hercules, who threw his body into the river.^ As 
Hercules was probably reported to have slain Lityerses 
in the same way that Lityerses slew others (as Theseus 
treated Sinis and Sciron), we may infer that Lityerses 
used to throw the bodies of his victims into the river. 
According to another version of the story, Lityerses, a 
son of Midas, used to challenge people to a reaping 
match with him, and if he vanquished them he used to 
thrash them ; but one day he met v/ith a stronger 
reaper, who slew him."' 

There are some grounds for supposing that in these 
stories of Lityerses we have the description of a 
Phrygian harvest custom in accordance with which 
certain persons, especially strangers passing the harvest 
field, were regularly regarded as embodiments of the 
corn -spirit and as such were seized by the reapers, 
wrapt in sheaves, and beheaded, their bodies, bound up 
in the corn-stalks, being afterwards thrown into water 
as a rain-charm. The grounds for this supposition are, 
first, the resemblance of the Lityerses story to the harvest 
customs of European peasantry, and, second, the fact 
that human beings have been commonly killed by 
savage races to promote the fertility of the fields. We 

1 The story was told by Sositheus in and Hesychius, s.v. Lityerses ; Aposto- 

his play of Daphnis. His verses have lius, x. 74. Photius mentions the 

been preserved in the tract of an anony- sickle. Lityerses is the subject of a 

mous writer. See Scripto7'es rerum special study by Mannhardt {Mytho- 

mirabiliiim, ed. Westermann, p. 220 ; logische Forschungeu, p. i sqq.), whom 

also Athenaeus, 415 B; Schol. on I follow. 
Theocritus, x. 41 ; Photius, Suidas, - Pollux, iv. 54. 


will examine these grounds successively, beginning with 
the former. 

In comparing the story with the harvest customs 
of Europe,^ three points deserve special attention, 
namely : I. the reaping match and the binding of 
persons in the sheaves; 11. the killing of the corn- 
spirit or his representatives; III. the treatment of 
visitors to the harvest-field or of strangers passing it. 

I. In regard to the first head, we have seen that 
in modern Europe the person who cuts or binds or 
threshes the last sheaf is often exposed to rough treat- 
ment at the hands of his fellow-labourers. For example, 
he is bound up in the last sheaf, and, thus encased, is 
carried or carted about, beaten, drenched with water, 
thrown on a dunghill, etc. Or, if he is spared this 
horseplay, he is at least the subject of ridicule or is 
believed destined to suffer some misfortune in the 
course of the year. Hence the harvesters are 
naturally reluctant to give the last cut at reaping or 
the last stroke at threshing or to bind the last sheaf, 
and towards the close of the work this reluctance pro- 
duces an emulation among the labourers, each striving 
to finish his task as fast as possible, in order that he 
may escape the invidious distinction of being last." 
For example, in the neighbourhood of Danzig, 
when the winter corn is cut and mostly bound up in 
sheaves, the portion which still remains to be bound is 
divided among^st the women binders, each of whom 

1 In this comparison I closely follow formerly so on the Gareloch, Dumbar- 
Mannhardt, Myth. ForscJi. p. 18 sqq. tonshire, where there was a competition 

2 Cp. above, p. 340. On the other for the honour of cutting it, several 
hand, the last sheaf is sometimes an handfuls of standing corn being con- 
object of desire and emulation. See cealed under sheaves. — (From the in- 
p. 336. It is so at Balquhidder also, formation of Archie Leitch. See note 
Folk-lore Journal, vi. 269 ; and it was on p. 345). 


receives a swath of equal length to bind. A crowd of 
reapers, children, and idlers gathers round to witness 
the contest, and at the word, " Seize the Old Man," the 
women fall to work, all binding their allotted swaths as 
hard as they can. The spectators watch them narrowly, 
and the woman who cannot keep pace with the rest 
and consequently binds the last sheaf has to carry the 
Old Man (that is, the last sheaf made up in the form 
of a man) to the farmhouse and deliver it to the farmer 
with the words, "Here I bring you the Old Man." At 
the supper which follows, the Old Man is placed at the 
table and receives an abundant portion of food which, 
as he cannot eat it, falls to the share of the woman who 
carried him. Afterwards the Old Man is placed in the 
yard and all the people dance round him. Or the woman 
who bound the last sheaf dances for a good while with 
the Old Man, while the rest form a ring round them ; 
afterwards they all, one after the other, dance a single 
round with him. Further, the woman who bound the 
last sheaf goes herself by the name of the Old Man till 
the next harvest, and is often mocked with the cry, 
" Here comes the Old Man." ^ At Aschbach, Bavaria, 
when the reaping is nearly finished, the reapers say, 
" Now we will drive out the Old Man." Each of them 
sets himself to reap a patch of corn and reaps as fast as 
he can ; he who cuts the last handful or the last stalk is 
greeted by the rest with an exulting cry, " You have 
the Old Man." Sometimes a black mask is fastened 
on the reaper's face and he is dressed in woman's 
clothes ; or if the reaper is a woman, she is dressed in 
man's clothes ; a dance follows. At the supper the 
Old Man gets twice as large a portion of food as the 
others. At threshing, the proceedings are the same ; 

1 W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. p. 19 sq. 


the person who gives the last stroke is said to have the 
Old Man.i 

These examples illustrate the contests in reaping, 
threshing, and binding which take place amongst the 
harvesters, on account of their unwillingness to suffer 
the ridicule and personal inconvenience attaching to 
the individual who happens to finish his work last. 
It will be remembered that the person who is last at 
reaping, binding, or threshing, is regarded as the 
representative of the corn -spirit,^ and this idea is 
more fully expressed by binding him or her in corn- 
stalks. The latter custom has been already illustrated, 
but a few more instances may be added. At Kloxin, 
near Stettin, the harvesters call out to the woman who 
binds the last sheaf, " You have the Old Man, and 
must keep him." The Old Man is a great bundle of 
corn decked with flowers and ribbons, and fashioned 
into a rude semblance of the human form. It is 
fastened on a rake or strapped on a horse, and brought 
with music to the village. In delivering the Old Man 
to the farmer, the woman says — 

" Here, dear Sir, is the Old Man. 
He can stay no longer on the field. 
He can hide himself no longer. 
He must come into the village. 
Ladies and gentlemen, pray be so kind 
As to give the Old Man a present." 

Forty or fifty years ago the custom was to tie up 
the woman herself in pease-straw, and bring her with 
music to the farmhouse, where the harvesters danced 
with her till the pease-straw fell off ^ In other villages 
round Stettin, when the last harvest-waggon is being 
loaded, there is a regular race amongst the women, 

1 W. Mannhardt, My/Ii. Forsch. p. - Above, p. 346 sq. 

20 ; Panzer, Beitrag ziir deutschen ^ W. r^Iannhardt, Myth. Forsch. 

Alythologie, ii. 217. p. 22. 

VOL. I 2 B 



each striving not to be last. For she who places 
the last sheaf on the waggon is called the Old !\Ian, 
and is completely swathed in corn-stalks ; she is also 
decked with flowers, and flowers and a helmet of straw 
are placed on her head. In solemn procession she 
carries the harvest -crown to the squire, over whose 
head she holds it while she utters a string of good 
wishes. At the dance which follows, the Old Man 
has the right to choose his (or rather her) partner ; 
it is an honour to dance with him.^ At Blankenfelde, 
in the district of Potsdam, the woman who binds the 
last sheaf at the rye -harvest is saluted with the cry, 
"You have the Old Man." A woman is then tied 
up in the last sheaf in such a way that only her 
head is left free ; her hair also is covered with a 
cap made of rye -stalks, adorned with ribbons and 
flowers. She is called the Harvest-man, and must keep 
dancing in front of the last harvest-waggon till it reaches 
the squire's house, where she receives a present, and is 
released from her envelope of corn.- At Gommern, 
near Magdeburg, the reaper who cuts the last ears 
of corn is often wrapt up in corn-stalks so completely 
that it is hard to see whether there is a man in the 
bundle or not. Thus wrapt up he is taken by another 
stalwart reaper on his back, and carried round the 
field amid the joyous cries of the harvesters.^'' At 
Neuhausen, near Merseburg, the person who binds the 
last sheaf is wrapt in ears of oats and saluted as 
the Oats-man, whereupon the others dance round 
him.^ At Brie, Isle de France, the farmer himself 
is tied up in the first sheafs At the harvest-home 
at Udvarhely, Transylvania, a person is encased in 

1 W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forscli. p. 22. ^ //,. p. 23. ^ //,. p. 

2 lb. p. 22 sq. * I^'- P- 23 sq. 


corn - stalks, and wears on his head a crown made 
out of the last ears cut. On reaching the village 
he is soused with water over and over/ At 
Dingelstedt, in the district of Erfurt, about fifty 
years ago it was the custom to tie up a man in 
the last sheaf. He was called the Old Man, and 
was brought home on the last waggon, amid huzzas 
and music. On reaching the farmyard he was rolled 
round the barn and drenched with water.- At 
Nordlingen, Bavaria, the man who gives the last 
stroke at threshing is wrapt in straw and rolled on 
the threshing-floor.^ In some parts of Oberpfalz, 
Bavaria, he is said to "get the Old Man," is wrapt 
in straw, and carried to a neio^hbour who has not 
yet finished his threshing.'^ In Thiiringen a sausage 
is stuck in the last sheaf at threshing, and thrown, 
with the sheaf, on the threshing-floor. It is called 
the Barrenwurst or Baitzenwtirst, and is eaten by all 
the threshers. After they have eaten it a man is 
encased in pease-straw, and thus attired is led through 
the village.^ 

"In all these cases the idea is that the spirit of 
the corn — the Old Man of vegetation — is driven out 
of the corn last cut or last threshed, and lives in 
the barn during the winter. At sowing-time he goes 
out again to the fields to resume his activity as 
animating force among the sprouting corn."'^ 

Much the same ideas are attached to the last corn 
in India ; for we are told that in the Central Provinces, 
" when the reaping is nearly done, about a bisvd, say 
a rood of land, of corn is left standing in the culti- 

1 W. Mannhardt,vl/i'//^ /^tj;-j-(7/.p. 24. '^ Witzschel, Sageii, Sitten imd 

2 lb. p. 24. 3 Jb. p. 24 sq. Gehraiuhe aics Thiiringen, p. 223. 

* lb. p. 25. "^ W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 25 sq. 



vator's last field, and the reapers rest a little. Then 
they rush at this bisvd, tear it up, and cast it into the 
air, shouting victory to Omkar Maharaj or Jhamaji, 
or Ramji Das, etc., according to their respective 
possessions. A sheaf is made up of this corn, tied 
to a bamboo, and stuck up in the last harvest cart, and 
carried home in triumph. It is fastened up in the 
threshing-floor to a tree, or to the cattle-shed, where 
its services are essential in averting the evil-eye."^ 

II. Passing to the second point of comparison 
between the Lityerses story and European harvest 
customs, we have now to see that in the latter the corn- 
spirit is often believed to be killed at reaping or thresh- 
ing. In the Romsdal and other parts of Norway, when 
the haymaking is over, the people say that " the Old 
Hay-man has been killed." In some parts of Bavaria 
the man who gives the last stroke at threshing is said 
to have killed the Corn -man, the Oats -man, or the 
Wheat-man, according to the crop." In the Canton of 
Tillot, in Lothringen, at threshing the last corn the 
men keep time with their flails, calling out as they 
thresh, " We are killing the Old Woman ! W'e are 
killing the Old Woman!" If there is an old woman 
in the house she is warned to save herself, or she will 
be struck dead.^ In Lithuania, near Ragnit, the last 
handful of corn is left standing by itself, with the 
words, " The Old Woman i^Boba) is sitting in there." 
Then a young reaper whets his scythe, and, with a 
strong sweep, cuts down the handful. It is now said 
of him that " He has cut off the Boba's head ;" and he 
receives a gratuity from the farmer and a jugful of 

1 C. A. Elliot, Hoshangdbdd Settle- - W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. p. 

ment Report, p. 178, quoted in Panjab 31. 
Notes and Queries, iii. Nos. 8, 168. ^ Ih. p. 334. 


water over his head from the farmer's wife.^ According 
to another account, every Lithuanian reaper makes haste 
to finish his task ; for the Old Rye-woman Hves in the 
last stalks, and whoever cuts the last stalks kills the Old 
Rye-woman, and by killing her he brings trouble on 
himself.'' In Wilkischken (district of Tilsit) the man 
who cuts the last corn goes by the name of " The killer 
of the Rye-woman."^ In Lithuania, again, the corn- 
spirit is believed to be killed at threshing as well as at 
reaping. When only a single pile of corn remains to be 
threshed, all the threshers suddenly step back a few 
paces, as if at the word of command. Then they fall 
to work plying their flails with the utmost rapidity 
and vehemence, till they come to the last bundle. 
Upon this they fling themselves with almost frantic 
fury, straining every nerve, and raining blows on it till 
the word " Halt! " rings out sharply from the leader. 
The man whose flail is the last to fall after the 
command to stop has been given is immediately 
surrounded by all the rest, crying out that " He has 
struck the Old Rye- woman dead." He has to expiate 
the deed by treating them to brandy ; and, like the 
man who cuts the last corn, he is known as " The 
killer of the Old Rye- woman." ^ Sometimes in 
Lithuania the slain corn -spirit was represented by a 
puppet. Thus a female figure was made out of 
corn-stalks, dressed in clothes, and placed on the 
threshing-floor, under the heap of corn which was to 
be threshed last. Whoever thereafter gave the 
last stroke at threshing " struck the Old Woman 
dead."^ We have already had examples of burning 
the figure which represents the corn -spirit." Some- 

1 W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. -> //'. p. 335. ^ /'''. p. 335- 

p. 330. - lb. ^ lb. p. 331. •= Above, pp. 335, 341, 35°- 


times, again, the corn-spirit is represented by a man, 
who Hes down under the last corn ; it is threshed 
upon his body, and the people say that " the Old 
Man is being beaten to death." ^ We have already 
seen that sometimes the farmer's wife is thrust, 
together with the last sheaf, under the threshing- 
machine, as if to thresh her, and that afterwards a 
pretence is made of winnowing her. " At Volders, 
in the Tyrol, husks of corn are stuck behind the neck 
of the man who gives the last stroke at threshing, and 
he is throtded with a straw garland. If he is tall, it is 
believed that the corn will be tall next year. Then he 
is tied on a bundle and flung into the river.^ In 
Carinthia, the thresher who gave the last stroke, and 
the person who untied the last sheaf on the threshing- 
floor, are bound hand and foot with straw bands, and 
crowns of straw are placed on their heads. Then 
they are tied, face to face, on a sledge, dragged 
through the village, and flung into a brook.'* The 
custom of throwing the representative of the corn- 
spirit into a stream, like that of drenching him with 
water, is, as usual, a rain-charm.'' 

III. Thus far the representatives of the corn- 
spirit have generally been the man or woman who 
cuts, binds, or threshes the last corn. We now come 
to the cases in which the corn -spirit is represented 
either by a stranger passing the harvest-field (as in the 
Lityerses tale), or by a visitor entering it for the first 
time. All over Germany it is customary for the 
reapers or threshers to lay hold of passing strangers 
and bind them with a rope made of corn-stalks, till 

1 W. Mannhardt, Kornddm., p. 26. * //'. p. 50 sq. 

2 Above, p. 343. •' See above, pp. 286 sq., 333, 337, 

3 W. Mannhardt, M. F. p. 50. 340, 341. 


they pay a forfeit ; and when the farmer himself or one 
of his guests enters the field or the threshing-floor for 
the first time, he is treated in the same way. Some- 
times the rope is only tied round his arm or his feet 
or his neck.^ But sometimes he is regularly swathed 
in corn. Thus at Solor in Norway, whoever enters 
the field, be he the master or a stranger, is tied up 
in a sheaf and must pay a ransom. In the neigh- 
bourhood of Soest, when the farmer visits the 
flax -pullers for the first time, he is completely 
enveloped in flax. Passers-by are also surrounded by 
the women, tied up in flax, and compelled to stand 
brandy.' At Nordlingen strangers are caught with 
straw ropes and tied up in a sheaf till they pay a 
forfeit. At Brie, Isle de France, when any one who 
does not belong to the farm passes by the harvest-field, 
the reapers give chase. If they catch him, they bind 
him in a sheaf and bite him, one after the other, in the 
forehead, crying "You shall carry the key of the 
field." ^ "To have the key" is an expression used 
by harvesters elsewhere in the sense of to cut or bind 
or thresh the last sheaf;* hence, it is equivalent to 
the phrases " You have the Old Man," "You are the 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 32 sqq. a few stalks, with the ears of corn 
Cp. Reviic des Traditions popidaires, iii. attached, jointly tie a knot and bury it 
598. in the heap. It is left there until all 

2 W. Mannhardt, Mythol. Forsch. p. the sheaves have been threshed and the 
35 sq. corn winnowed and measured. The 

3 //;. p. 36. object of this ceremony is to prevent 

4 For the evidence, see ib. p. 36, the devils from diminishing the quantity 
note 2. The idea which lies at the of corn in the heap." C. J. R. Le 
Ijottom of the phrase seems to be Mesurier, " Customs and Superstitions 
explained by the following Cingalese connected with the Cultivation of Rice 
custom. "There is a curious custom in the Southern Province of Ceylon," 
of the threshing-floor called ' Goigote ' va. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 
— the tying of the cultivator's knot. N.S., xvii. (1885) 371. The"key"_in 
When a sheaf of corn has been threshed the European custom is probably in- 
out, before it is removed the grain is tended to serve the same purpose 
heaped up and the threshers, generally as the "knot" in the Cingalese 
six in number, sit round it, and taking custom. 


Old Man," which are addressed to the cutter, binder, 
or thresher of the last sheaf. Therefore, when a 
stranger, as at Brie, is tied up in a sheaf and told that 
he will "carry the key of the field," it is as much 
as to say that he is the Old Man, that is, an em- 
bodiment of the corn-spirit. 

Thus, like Lityerses, modern reapers lay hold of 
a passing stranger and tie him up in a sheaf. It is 
not to be expected that they should complete the 
parallel by cutting off his head ; but if they do not 
take such a strong step, their language and gestures 
are at least indicative of a desire to do so. For 
instance, in Mecklenburg on the first day of reaping, if 
the master or mistress or a stranger enters the field, or 
merely passes by it, all the mowers face towards him 
and sharpen their scythes, clashing their whet-stones 
against them in unison, as if they were making ready 
to mow. Then the woman who leads the mowers 
steps up to him and ties a band round his left arm. 
He must ransom himself by payment of a forfeit.^ 
Near Ratzeburg when the master or other person of 
mark enters the field or passes by it, all the harvesters 
stop work and march towards him in a body, the men 
with their scythes in front. On meeting him they 
form up in line, men and women. The men stick the 
poles of their scythes in the ground, as they do in 
whetting them ; then they take off their caps and hang 
them on the scythes, while their leader stands forward 
and makes a speech. When he has done, they all 
whet their scythes in measured time very loudly, after 
which they put on their caps. Two of the women 
binders then come forward ; one of them ties the 
master or stranger (as the case may be) with corn-ears 

1 W. Mannharclt, op. cit. p. 39. 


or with a silken band ; the other dehvers a rhyming 
address. The following are specimens of the speeches 
made by the reaper on these occasions. In some parts 
of Pomerania every passer-by is stopped, his way 
being barred with a corn-rope. The reapers form a 
circle round him and sharpen their scythes, while their 
leader says — 

" The men are ready, 
The scythes are bent, 
The corn is great and small, 
The gentleman must be mowed." 

Then the process of whetting the scythes is repeated.^ 
At Ramin, in the district of Stettin, the stranger, stand- 
ing encircled by the reapers, is thus addressed — 

" We'll stroke the gentleman 
With our naked sword. 
Wherewith we shear meadows and fields. 
We shear princes and lords. 
Labourers are often athirst ; 
If the gentleman will stand beer and brandy 
The joke will soon be over. 
But, if our prayer he does not like, 
The sword has a right to strike." '-' 

That in these customs the whetting of the scythes 
is really meant as a preliminary to mowing appears 
from the following variation of the preceding customs. 
In the district of Ltineburg when any one enters the 
harvest -field, he is asked whether he will engage a 
good fellow. If he says yes, the harvesters mow some 
swaths, yelling and screaming, and then ask him for 

On the threshing-floor strangers are also regarded 
as embodiments of the corn -spirit, and are treated 

1 W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. or the master, see ib. p. 41 ; Lemke, 

p. 39 iq. Volksthiimliches in Ostprenssen, i. 23 sq. 

- //'. p. 40. For the speeches made ■* W. Mannhardt, Alyth. Forsch. p. 

by the woman who binds the stranger 41 sq. 


accordingly. At Wiedingharde in Schleswig when a 
stranger comes to the threshing-floor he is asked 
"Shall I teach you the flail-dance.^" If he says yes, 
they put the arms of the threshing-flail round his neck 
(as if he were a sheaf of corn), and press them together 
so tightly that he is nearly choked/ In some parishes 
of Wermland (Sweden) when a stranger enters the 
threshing-floor where the threshers are at work, they 
say that " they will teach him the threshing -song." 
Then they put a flail round his neck and a straw rope 
about his body. Also, as we have seen, if a stranger 
woman enters the threshing-floor, the threshers put 
a flail round her body and a wreath of corn-stalks 
round her neck, and call out, " See the Corn-woman ! 
See ! that is how^ the Corn-maiden looks ! " - 

In these customs, observed both on the harvest- 
field and on the threshing-floor, a passing stranger is 
regarded as a personification of the corn, in other 
words, as the corn -spirit ; and a show is made of 
treating him like the corn by mowing, binding, and 
threshing: him. If the reader still doubts whether 
European peasants can really regard a passing stranger 
in this light, the following custom should set their 
doubts at rest. During the madder- harvest in the 
Dutch province of Zealand a stranger passing by a 
field where the people are digging the madder-roots 
will sometimes call out to them Koortspillers (a term 
of reproach). Upon this, two of the fleetest runners 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 42. silently threshed with the flail on the 

- lb. p. 42. See above, p. 343. In threshing-floor, and the stranger who 

Thiiringen a being called the Rush- appeared at the door of the barn during 

cutter used to be much dreaded. On the threshing was the Rush - cutter, 

the morning of St. John's Day he was Witzschel, Sageti, Sittcn und Ge- 

wont to walk through the fields with brduchc aits Thiiringen, p. 221. With 

sickles tied to his ankles cutting avenues the Binsenschncider compare the Bil- 

in the corn as he walked. To detect schncider. V3.x\ze.x,Beitragztirdeutschen 

him, seven bundles of brushwood were Mythologie, ii. 2IO sq. 



make after him, and, if they catch him, they bring 
him back to the madder-field and bury him in the 
earth up to his middle at least, jeering at him the 
while ; then they ease nature before his face.^ This 
last act is to be explained as follows. The spirit 
of the corn and of other cultivated plants is some- 
times conceived, not as immanent in the plant, but 
as its owner ; hence the cutting of the corn at harvest, 
the digging of the roots, and the gathering of fruit 
from the fruit-trees are each and all of them acts 
of spoliation, which strip him of his property and 
reduce him to poverty. Hence he is often known as 
" the Poor Man " or " the Poor Woman.' Thus in the 
neighbourhood of Eisenach a small sheaf is sometimes 
left standing on the field for " the Poor Old Woman." - 
At Marksuhl, near Eisenach, the puppet formed out of 
the last sheaf is itself called " the Poor Woman." At 

1 W. Mannhardt, op. cit. p. 47 sq. 

'^ lb. p. 48. To prevent a ration- 
alistic explanation of this custom, which, 
like most rationalistic explanations of 
folk-custom, would be wrong, it may be 
pointed out that a little of the crop is 
sometimes left on the field for the spirit 
under other names than "the Poor Old 
Woman." Thus in a village of the 
Tilsit district, the last sheaf was left 
standing on the field "for the Old 
Rye-woman. " M. F. p. 337. In Neften- 
bach (Canton of Ziirich) the first three 
ears of corn reaped are thrown away 
on the field "to satisfy the Corn- 
mother and to make the next year's 
crop abundant." lb. In Thiiringen 
when the after - grass ( Grummet) is 
being got in, a little heap is left lying 
on the field ; it belongs to " the Little 
Wood-woman " in return for the bless- 
ing she has bestowed. Witzschel, 
Sagen, Sitlen una Gehriiuche ans 
Thiirhigen, p. 224. At Kupferberg, 
Bavaria, some corn is left standing on 
the field when the rest has been cut. 
Of this corn left standing, they say 

that "it belongs to the Old Woman," 
to whom it is dedicated in the follow- 
ing words — 

' ' We give it to the Old Woman ; 
She shall keep it. 
Next year may she be to us 
As kind as this time she has been." 
M. F. p. 337 sq. These last expressions 
are quite conclusive. See also Mann- 
hardt, Korndamoncn, p. 7 sq. In 
Russia a patch of unreaped corn is 
left in the field and the ears are knotted 
together ; this is called " the plaiting 
of the beard of Volos." "The un- 
reaped patch is looked upon as ta- 
booed ; and it is believed that if any 
one meddles with it he will shrivel up, 
and become twisted like the inter- 
woven ears." Ralston, Songs of the 
Russian People, p. 251. In the North- 
east of Scotland a few stalks were 
sometimes left unreaped for the bene- 
fit of "the aul' man." W. Gregor, 
Folk-lore of the North-East of Scotland, 
p. 182. Here "the aul' man" is 
probably the equivalent of the Old Man 
\der Alte) of Germany. 


Alt Lest in Silesia the man who binds the last sheaf is 
called the Beggar-man.^ In a village near Roeskilde, 
in Zealand (Denmark), old-fashioned peasants some- 
times make up the last sheaf into a rude puppet, which 
is called the Rye-beggar.'- In Southern Schonen the 
sheaf which is bound last is called the Beggar ; it 
is made bigger than the rest and is sometimes dressed 
in clothes. In the district of Olmiitz the last sheaf is 
called the Beggar ; it is given to an old woman, who 
must carry it home, limping on one foot." Thus when 
the corn-spirit is conceived as a being who is robbed 
of his store and impoverished by the harvesters, it is 
natural that his representative — the passing stranger — 
should upbraid them ; and it is equally natural that 
they should seek to disable him from pursuing them 
and recapturing the stolen property. Now, it is an old 
superstition that by easing nature on the spot where a 
robbery is committed, the robbers secure themselves, 
for a certain time, against interruption.^ The fact, 
therefore, that the madder -diggers resort to this 
proceeding in presence of the stranger proves that 
they consider themselves robbers and him as the 
person robbed. Regarded as such, he must be the 
natural owner of the madder-roots ; that is, their spirit 
or demon ; and this conception is carried out by 
burying him, like the madder -roots, in the ground.^ 
The Greeks, it may be observed, were quite familiar 
with the idea that a passing stranger may be a god. 
Homer says that the gods in the likeness of foreigners 
roam up and down cities.*' 

1 M. F. p. 48. ^ The explanation of the custom is 

2 lb. p. 4S sq. 3 //;. p. 4g. Mannhardt's. M. F. p. 49. 
■* lb. p. 49 sq.; Wuttke, Der deiitsche 

Vo/A'sabero-Zaiide,'^ §4.00; Td-ppen,Ader- " Otfj'ssej', xv'n. 48$ sqq. Cp. Tlato, 

glaube aits Mastiren,'^ p. 57. Sophist, 216 A. 


Thus in these harvest-customs of modern Europe 
the person who cuts, binds, or threshes the last corn is 
treated as an embodiment of the corn-spirit by being 
wrapt up in sheaves, killed in mimicry by agricultural 
implements, and thrown into the water.^ These coin- 
cidences with the Lityerses story seem to prove that 
the latter is a genuine description of an old Phrygian 
harvest-custom. But since in the modern parallels the 
killing of the personal representative of the corn-spirit 
is necessarily omitted or at most enacted only in 
mimicry, it is necessary to show that in rude society 
human beings have been commonly killed as an agri- 
cultural ceremony to promote the fertility of the fields. 
The following examples will make this plain. 

The Indians of Guayaquil (Ecuador) used to sacrifice 
human blood and the hearts of men when they sowed 
their fields.' At a Mexican harvest-festival, when the 
first-fruits of the season were offered to the sun, a 
criminal was placed between two immense stones, 
balanced opposite each other, and was crushed by 
them as they fell together. His remains were buried, 
and a feast and dance followed. This sacrifice was 
known as "the meeting of the stones."^ Another 
series of human sacrifices offered in Mexico to make 
the maize thrive has been already referred to."* The 
Pawnees annually sacrificed a human victim in spring 
when they sowed their fields. The sacrifice was 
believed to have been enjoined on them by the 
Morning Star, or by a certain bird which the Morning 

1 For throwing him into the water, dds Nations civilisces du Alexique, i. 
see p. 374. 274 ; Bancroft, Native Races of the 

2 Cieza de Leon, Travels^ trans- Pacific States, ii. 340. 

lated by Markham, p. 203 (Hakluyt * '&-i.i,\\'3x\., Die Culturlander des alten 

Society, 1864). Amerika, ii. 639 (quoting Herrara). 

■* Brasseur de Bourbourg, Histoire See above, p. 307. 


Star had sent to them as its messenger. The bird 
was stuffed and preserved as a powerful "medicine." 
They thought that an omission of this sacrifice would 
be followed by the total failure of the crops of maize, 
beans, and pumpkins. The victim was a captive of 
either sex. He was clad in the gayest and most costly 
attire, was fattened on the choicest food, and carefully 
kept in ignorance of his doom. When he was fat 
enough, they bound him to a cross in the presence of 
the multitude, danced a solemn dance, then cleft his 
head with a tomahawk and shot him with arrows. 
According to one trader, the squaws then cut pieces of 
flesh from the victim's body, with which they greased 
their hoes ; but this was denied by another trader who 
had been present at the ceremony. Immediately after 
the sacrifice the people proceeded to plant their fields. 
A particular account has been preserved of the sacri- 
fice of a Sioux girl by the Pawnees in April 1837 or 
1838. The girl had been kept for six months and 
well treated. Two days before the sacrifice she was 
led from wigwam to wigwam, accompanied by the 
whole council of chiefs and warriors. At each lodge 
she received a small billet of wood and a little paint, 
which she handed to the warrior next to her. In this 
way she called at every wigwam, receiving at each the 
same present of wood and paint. On the 2 2d of 
April she was taken out to be sacrificed, attended by 
the warriors, each of whom carried two pieces of wood 
which he had received from her hands. She was 
burned for some time over a slow fire, and then shot 
to death with arrows. The chief sacrificer next tore 
out her heart and devoured it. While her flesh was 
still warm it was cut in small pieces from the bones, 
put in little baskets, and taken to a neighbouring corn- 


field. Here the head chief took a piece of the flesh 
from a basket and squeezed a drop of blood upon 
the newly -deposited grains of corn. His example 
was followed by the rest, till all the seed had been 
sprinkled with the blood ; it was then covered up 
with earth. ^ 

A West African queen used to sacrifice a man and 
woman in the month of March. They were killed with 
spades and hoes, and their bodies buried in the middle 
of a field which had just been tilled.- At Lagos in 
Guinea it was the custom annually to impale a young 
girl alive soon after the spring equinox in order to 
secure good crops. Along with her were sacrificed 
sheep and goats, which, with yams, heads of maize, 
and plantains, were hung on stakes on each side of 
her. The victims were bred up for the purpose in the 
king's seraglio, and their minds had been so powerfully 
wrought upon by the fetish men that they went cheer- 
fully to their fate.^ A similar sacrifice is still annually 
offered at Benin, Guinea.* The Marimos, a Bechuana 
tribe, sacrifice a human being for the crops. The 
victim chosen is generally a short, stout man. He is 
seized by violence or intoxicated and taken to the 
fields, where he is killed amongst the wheat to serve 
as "seed" (so they phrase it). After his blood has 
coagulated in the sun it is burned along with the 
frontal bone, the flesh attached to it, and the brain ; 

^ 'E.^^mts, Account of an Expedition 2 L^bat, Relation historique de 

frofu Pittsburgh to tiie Rocky Mountains, PEtJiiopie occidcntale, i. 380. 
ii. 80 sq.; Schoolcraft, Indian Tribes, 

V. 77 sqq.; De Smet, Voyages aux ^ ]o\\r\ AAams, Sketches taken during 

Motitagnes Rocheuses, nouvelle ed. Ten Voyages in Africa betzveen the 

1873, p. 121 sqq. The accounts by years 1786 wW 1800, p. 25. 
Schoolcraft and De Smet of the sacrifice 

of the Sioux girl are independent and ** V. Bouche, La Cote des Esclaves, 

supplement each other. p. 132. 


the ashes are then scattered over the ground to fertilise 
it. The rest of the body is eaten.^ 

The Gonds of India, a Dravidian race, kidnapped 
Brahman boys, and kept them as victims to be sacri- 
ficed on various occasions. At sowing and reaping, 
after a triumphal procession, one of the lads was slain 
by being punctured with a poisoned arrow. His blood 
was then sprinkled over the ploughed field or the ripe 
crop, and his fiesh was devoured. - 

But the best known case of human sacrifices, 
systematically offered to ensure good crops, is 
supplied by the Khonds or Kandhs, another Dra- 
vidian race in Bengal. Our knowledge of them 
is derived from the accounts written by British 
officers who, forty or fifty years ago, were engaged 
in putting them down.^ The sacrifices were offered 
to the Earth Goddess, Tari Pennu or Bera Pennu, 
and were believed to ensure good crops and im- 
munity from all disease and accidents. In parti- 
cular, they were considered necessary in the culti- 
vation of turmeric, the Khonds arguing that the 
turmeric could not have a deep red colour without 
the shedding of blood. ^ The victim or Meriah 
was acceptable to the goddess only if he had been 
purchased, or had been born a victim — that is, the 
son of a victim father — or had been devoted as a 
child by his father or guardian. Khonds in distress 
often sold their children for victims, " considering the 
beatification of their souls certain, and their death, for 
the benefit of mankind, the most honourable possible." 

1 Arbousset et Daumas, Voyage 3 Major S. C. Macpherson, Mc- 
d' exploration au Nord-est de la Colonic morials of Service in India, p. 113 sq.; 
dti Cap de Bonne-Esperance,\>. \\T sq. Major -General John Campbell, Wild 

2 Panjab Notes and Queries, ii. No. Tribes of Khondistan, pp. 52-58, etc. 
y2i. * J- Campbell, op. cit. p. 56. 


A man of the Panua tribe was once seen to load a 
Khond with curses, and finally to spit in his face, 
because the Khond had sold for a victim his own 
child, whom the Panua had wished to marry, A 
party of Khonds, who saw this, immediately pressed 
forward to comfort the seller of his child, saying, 
" Your child has died that all the world may live, and 
the Earth Goddess herself will wipe that spittle from 
your face." ^ The victims were often kept for years 
before they were sacrificed. Being regarded as con- 
secrated beings, they were treated with extreme 
affection, mingled with deference, and were welcomed 
wherever they went. A Meriah youth, on attaining 
maturity, was generally given a wife, who was herself 
usually a Meriah or victim ; and with her he received 
a portion of land and farm-stock. Their offspring 
were also victims. Human sacrifices were offered to 
the Earth Goddess by tribes, branches of tribes, or 
villages, both at periodical festivals and on extra- 
ordinary occasions. The periodical sacrifices were 
generally so arranged by tribes and divisions of tribes 
that each head of a family was enabled, at least once 
a year, to procure a shred of flesh for his fields, 
generally about the time when his chief crop was 
laid down.- 

The mode of performing these tribal sacrifices 
was as follows. Ten or twelve days before the 
sacrifice, the victim was devoted by cutting off his 
hair, which, until then, was kept unshorn. Crowds 
of men and women assembled to witness the sacri- 
fice ; none might be excluded, since the sacrifice 
was declared to be "for all mankind." It was 
preceded by several days of wild revelry and gross 

1 S. C. Macpherson, op. cit. p. 115 5y. ^ ji,^ p_ ,j^_ 

VOL. I 2 C 


debauchery.^ On the day before the sacrifice the 
victim, dressed in a new garment, was led forth from 
the village in solemn procession, with music and danc- 
ing, to the Meriah grove, which was a clump of high 
forest trees standing a little way from the village and 
untouched by the axe. In this grove the victim was 
tied to a post, which was sometimes placed between 
two plants of the sankissar shrub. He was then 
anointed with oil, ghee, and turmeric, and adorned 
with flowers ; and " a species of reverence, which it 
is not easy to distinguish from adoration," was paid 
to him throughout the day.'' A great struggle now 
arose to obtain the smallest relic from his person ; 
a particle of the turmeric paste with which he was 
smeared, or a drop of his spittle, was esteemed 
of sovereign virtue, especially by the women. The 
crowd danced round the post to music, and, addressing 
the earth, said, " O God, we offer this sacrifice to you ; 
give us good crops, seasons, and health." ^ 

On the last morning the orgies, which had been 
scarcely interrupted during the night, were resumed, 
and continued till noon, when they ceased, and the 
assembly proceeded to consummate the sacrifice. 
The victim was again anointed with oil, and each 
person touched the anointed part, and wiped the oil 
on his own head. In some places the victim was 
then taken in procession round the village, from door 
to door, where some plucked hair from his head, and 
others begged for a drop of his spittle, with which 
they anointed their heads. -^ As the victim might 
not be bound nor make any show of resistance, the 

^ S. C. Macpherson, op. cit. p. 117 2 s_ c. Macpherson, p. 1 18. 

sq.; J. Campbell, p. 1 12. ^ j. Campbell, p. 54. 

* li'- pp. 55, 112. 


bones of his arms and, if necessary, his legs were 
broken ; but often this precaution was rendered 
unnecessary by stupefying him with opium. ^ The 
mode of putting him to death varied in different 
places. One of the commonest modes seems to 
have been strangulation, or squeezing to death. 
The branch of a green tree was cleft several feet 
down the middle ; the victim's neck (in other places, 
his chest) was inserted in the cleft, which the priest, 
aided by his assistants, strove with all his force to 
close.^ Then he wounded the victim slightly with 
his axe, whereupon the crowd rushed at the victim 
and cut the flesh from the bones, leaving the head 
and bowels untouched. Sometimes he was cut up 
alive.^ In Chinna Kimedy he was dragged along 
the fields, surrounded by the crowd, who, avoiding 
his head and intestines, hacked the flesh from his 
body with their knives till he died.* Another very 
common mode of sacrifice in the same district was 
to fasten the victim to the proboscis of a wooden 
elephant, which revolved on a stout post, and, as it 
whirled round, the crowd cut the flesh from the victim 
while life remained. In some villages Major Campbell 
found as many as fourteen of these wooden elephants, 
which had been used at sacrifices.^ In one district the 
victim was put to death slowly by fire. A low stage 
was formed, sloping on either side like a roof; upon it 

1 S. C. Macpherson, p. 1 19 ; J. Camp- ^ J. Campbell, p. 126. The elephant 

bell, p. 113. represented the Earth Goddess herself, 

^ S. C. Macpherson, p. 12". Instead who was here conceived in elephant- 

of the branch of a green tree, Campbell form ; Campbell, pp. 51, 126. In the 

mentions two strong planks or bamboos hill tracts of Goomsur she was reprc- 

(P- 57) or a slit bamboo (p. 182). sented in peacock-form, and the post 

3 J. Campbell, pp. 56, 58, 120. to which the victim was bound bore 

4 Dalton, Ethnolog)' of Bengal, p. the effigy of a peacock, Campbell, p. 
288, quoting Colonel Campbell's Re- 54. 



the victim was placed, his Hmbs wound round with 
cords to confine his struggles. Fires were then 
lighted and hot brands applied, to make him roll up 
and down the slopes of the stage as long as possible ; 
for the more tears he shed the more abundant would 
be the supply of rain. Next day the body was cut 
to pieces.^ 

The flesh cut from the victim was instantly taken 
home by the persons who had been deputed by 
each village to bring it. To secure its rapid arrival, 
it was sometimes forwarded by relays of men, and 
conveyed with postal fleetness fifty or sixty miles.^ 
In each village all who stayed at home fasted rigidly 
until the fiesh arrived. The bearer deposited it in the 
place of public assembly, where it was received by the 
priest and the heads of families. The priest divided 
it into two portions, one of which he offered to 
the Earth Goddess by burying it in a hole in the 
ground with his back turned, and without looking. 
Then each man added a little earth to bury it, and 
the priest poured water on the spot from a hill gourd. 
The other portion of flesh he divided into as many 
shares as there were heads of houses present. Each 
head of a house rolled his shred of flesh in leaves, and 
buried it in his favourite field, placing it in the earth 
behind his back without looking.^ In some places 
each man carried his portion of flesh to the stream 
which watered his fields, and there hung it on a pole.* 
For three days thereafter no house was swept ; and, in 
one district, strict silence was observed, no fire might 
be given out, no wood cut, and no strangers received. 

1 S. C. Macpherson, p. 130. ^ §_ c_ Macpherson, p. 129. Cp. J. 

2 Dalton, Et/i>!ol'\i,y of Bcfigal, p. Campbell, pp. 55, 58, 113, 121, 187. 
288, referring to Colonel Campbell's 

Report. ■* J. Campbell, p. 182. 


The remains of the human victim (namely, the head, 
bowels, and bones) were watched by strong parties 
the night after the sacrifice ; and next morning they 
were burned, along with a whole sheep, on a funeral 
pile. The ashes were scattered over the fields, laid 
as paste over the houses and granaries, or mixed with 
the new corn to preserve it from insects.^ Sometimes, 
however, the head and bones were buried, not burnt. - 
After the suppression of the human sacrifices, inferior 
victims were substituted in some places; for instance, in 
the capital of Chinna Kimedy a goat took the place 
of a human victim.^ 

In these Khond sacrifices the Merlahs are repre- 
sented by our authorities as victims offered to pro- 
pitiate the Earth Goddess. But from the treatment 
of the victims both before and after death it appears 
that the custom cannot be explained as merely a 
propitiatory sacrifice. A part of the flesh certainly 
was offered to the Earth Goddess, but the rest of the 
flesh was buried by each householder in his fields, and 
the ashes of the other parts of the body were scattered 
over the fields, laid as paste on the granaries, or mixed 
with the new corn. These latter customs imply that 
to the body of the Meriah there was ascribed a direct 
or intrinsic power of making the crops to grow, quite 
independent of the indirect efficacy which it might 
have as an offering to secure the good-will of the deity. 
In other words, the flesh and ashes of the victim were 
believed to be endowed with a niagical or physical 
power of fertilising the land. The same intrinsic power 
was ascribed to the blood and tears of the Meriah, his 
blood causing the redness of the turmeric and his tears 

. 1 S. C. Macpherson, p. 128; Dalton, I.e. 
- J. Campbell, pp. 55, 1S2. ^ J. Campbell, p. 187. 


producing rain ; for it can hardly be doubted that, 
originally at least, the tears were supposed to produce 
rain, not merely to prognosticate it. Similarly the 
custom of pouring water on the buried flesh of the 
Meriah was no doubt a rain-charm. Again, intrinsic 
supernatural power as an attribute of the Meriah 
appears in the sovereign virtue believed to reside in 
anything that came from his person, as his hair or 
spittle. The ascription of such power to the Meriah 
indicates that he was much more than a mere man sac- 
rificed to propitiate a deity. Once more, the extreme 
reverence paid him points to the same conclusion. 
Major Campbell speaks of the Meriah as " being re- 
garded as something more than mortal,"^ and Major 
Macpherson says, "A species of reverence, which it is 
not easy to distinguish from adoration, is paid to him." " 
In short, the Meriah appears to have been regarded 
as divine. As such, he may originally have represented 
the Earth deity or perhaps a deity of vegetation ; 
though in later times he came to be regarded rather as 
a victim offered to a deity than as himself an incar- 
nate deity. This later view of the Meriah as a 
victim rather than a god may perhaps have received 
undue emphasis from the European writers who have 
described the Khond religion. Habituated to the later 
idea of sacrifice as an offering made to a god for the 
purpose of conciliating his favour, European observers 
are apt to interpret all religious slaughter in this sense, 
and to suppose that wherever such slaughter takes 
place, there must necessarily be a deity to whom the 
slaughter is believed by the slayers to be acceptable. 
Thus their preconceived ideas unconsciously colour 
and warp their descriptions of savage rites. 

1 J. Campbell, p. 112. - S. C. Macpherson, p. 118. 


The same custom of killing the representative of a 
god, of which strong traces appear in the Khond 
sacrifices, may perhaps be detected in some of the 
other human sacrifices described above. Thus the 
ashes of the slaughtered Marimo were scattered over 
the fields ; the blood of the Brahman lad was put 
on the crop and field ; and the blood of the Sioux 
girl was allowed to trickle on the seed.^ Again, the 
identification of the victim with the corn, in other 
words, the view that he is an embodiment or spirit of 
the corn, is brought out in the pains which seem to be 
taken to secure a physical correspondence between him 
and the natural object which he embodies or represents. 
Thus the Mexicans killed young victims for the young 
corn and old ones for the ripe corn ; the Marimos sacri- 
fice, as "seed," a short, fat man, the shortness of his 
stature corresponding to that of the young corn, his 
fatness to the condition which it is desired that the 
crops may attain ; and the Pawnees fattened their 
victims probably with the same view. Again, the 
identification of the victim with the corn comes out 
in the African custom of killing him with spades and 
hoes, and the Mexican custom of grinding him, like 
corn, between two stones. 

One more point in these savage customs deserves 
to be noted. The Pawnee chief devoured the heart 
of the Sioux girl, and the Marimos and Gonds ate the 
victim's fiesh. If, as we suppose, the victim was re- 
garded as divine, it follows that in eating his flesh his 
worshippers were partaking of the body of their god. 
To this point we shall return later on. 

The savage rites just described offer analogies 
to the harvest customs of Europe. Thus the fer- 

1 Above, pp. 383, 384. 


tilising virtue ascribed to the corn -spirit is shown 
equally in the savage custom of mixing the victim's 
blood or ashes with the seed-corn and the European 
custom of mixing the grain from the last sheaf with 
the young corn in spring.^ Again, the identification 
of the person with the corn appears alike in the 
savage custom of adapting the age and stature of 
the victim to the age and stature (actual or expected) 
of the crop ; in the Scotch and Styrian rules that when 
the corn-spirit is conceived as the Maiden the last corn 
shall be cut by a young maiden, but when it is conceived 
as the Corn-mother it shall be cut by an old woman ; " 
in the Lothringian warning given to old women to save 
themselves when the Old Woman is being killed, that 
is, when the last corn is being threshed ; ^ and in the 
Tyrolese expectation that if the man who gives the last 
stroke at threshing is tall, the next year's corn will be 
tall also/ Further, the same identification is implied 
in the savage custom of killing the representative of 
the corn-spirit with hoes or spades or by grinding him 
between stones, and in the European custom of pre- 
tending to kill him with the scythe or the flail. Once 
more the Khond custom of pouring water on the buried 
flesh of the victim is parallel to the European customs 
of pouring water on the personal representative of the 
corn-spirit or plunging him into a stream.^ Both the 
Khond and the European customs are rain-charms. 

To return now to the Lityerses story. It has been 
shown that in rude society human beings have been 
commonly killed to promote the growth of the crops. 
There is therefore no improbability in the supposition 
that they may once have been killed for a like purpose 

1 Above, pp. 334, 335. 2 Above, pp. 333, 344, 345. 3 Above, p. 372. 
■* Above, p. 374. ^ Above, pp. 286 sq., 337, 340, 374. 


in Phrygia and Europe ; and when Phrygian legend and 
European folk-custom, closely agreeing with each other, 
point to the conclusion that men were so slain, we are 
bound, provisionally at least, to accept the conclusion. 
Further, both the Lityerses story and European 
harvest customs agree in indicating that the person 
slain was slain as a representative of the corn-spirit, 
and this indication is in harmony with the view which 
savages appear to take of the victim slain to make the 
crops flourish. On the whole, then, we may fairly 
suppose that both in Phrygia and in Europe the repre- 
sentative of the corn-spirit was annually killed upon the 
harvest-field. Grounds have been already shown for 
believing that similarly in Europe the representative of 
the tree-spirit was annually slain. The proofs of these 
two remarkable and closely analogous customs are 
entirely independent of each other. Their coincidence 
seems to furnish fresh presumption in favour of both. 

To the question, how was the representative of 
the corn-spirit chosen ? one answer has been already 
given. Both the Lityerses story and European folk- 
custom show that passing .strangers were regarded 
as manifestations of the corn - spirit escaping from 
the cut or threshed corn, and as such were seized 
and slain. But this is not the only answer which 
the evidence suggests. According to one version 
of the Phrygian legend the victims of Lityerses were 
not passing strangers but persons whom he had 
vanquished in a reaping contest ; and though it is not 
said that he killed, but only that he thrashed them, we 
can hardly avoid supposing that in one version of the 
story the vanquished reapers, like the strangers in the 
other version, were said to have been wrapt up by 
Lityerses in corn -sheaves and so beheaded. The 


supposition is countenanced by European harvest- 
customs. We have seen that in Europe there is some- 
times a contest amongst the reapers to avoid being last, 
and that the person who is vanquished in this com- 
petition, that is, who cuts the last corn, is often roughly 
handled. It is true we have not found that a pretence 
is made of killing him ; but on the other hand we have 
found that a pretence is made of killing the man who 
gives the last stroke at threshing, that is, who is van- 
quished in the threshing contest.^ Now, since it is in 
the character of representative of the corn-spirit that 
the thresher of the last corn is slain in mimicry, and 
since the same representative character attaches (as we 
have seen) to the cutter and binder as well as to the 
thresher of the last corn, and since the same repugnance 
is evinced by harvesters to be last in any one of these 
labours, we may conjecture that a pretence has been 
commonly made of killing the reaper and binder as well 
as the thresher of the last corn, and that in ancient 
times this killing was actually carried out. This con- 
jecture is corroborated by the common superstition that 
whoever cuts the last corn must die soon.^ Sometimes 
it is thought that the person who binds the last sheaf 
on the field will die in the course of next year.^ The 
reason for fixing on the reaper, binder, or thresher of 
the last corn as the representative of the corn-spirit may 
be this. The corn-spirit is supposed to lurk as long 
as he can in the corn, retreating before the reapers, the 
binders, and the threshers at their work. But when 
he is forcibly expelled from his ultimate refuge in the 
last corn cut or the last sheaf bound or the last grain 
threshed, he necessarily assumes some other form than 

1 Above, p. 374. 2 \v. Mannhardt, Kornddmoneii, p. 5. 

•* Pfannenschmid, Germanische Eriitefeste, p. 98. 


that of the corn-stalks which had hitherto been his 
garments or body. And what form can the expehed 
corn-spirit assume more naturally than that of the person 
who stands nearest to the corn from which he (the 
corn-spirit) has just been expelled ? But the person in 
question is necessarily the reaper, binder, or thresher 
of the last corn. He or she, therefore, is seized and 
treated as the corn-spirit himself. 

Thus the person who was killed on the harvest- 
held as the representative of the corn-spirit may have 
been either a passing stranger or the harvester who 
was last at reaping, binding, or threshing. But there 
is a third possibility, to which ancient legend and 
modern folk -custom alike point. Lityerses not only 
put strangers to death ; he was himself slain, and 
probably in the same way as he had slain others, 
namely, by being wrapt in a corn-sheaf, beheaded, and 
cast into the river; and it is implied that this happened 
to Lityerses on his own land. Similarly in modern 
harvest -customs the pretence of killing appears to be 
carried out quite as often on the person of the master 
(farmer or squire) as on that of strangers.^ Now when 
we remember that Lityerses was said to have been the 
son of the King of Phrygia, and combine with this the 
tradition that he was put to death, apparendy as a 
representative of the corn -spirit, we are led to con- 
jecture that we have here another trace of the custom of 
annually slaying one of those divine or priestly kings 
who are known to have held ghostly sway in many 
parts of Western Asia and particularly in Phrygia. 
The custom appears, as we have seen,^ to have been 
so far modified in places that the king's son was 
slain in the king's 'stead. Of the custom thus 

1 Above, p. 376 sq. - Above, p. 235. 


modified the story of Lityerses would therefore be 
a reminiscence. 

Turning now to the relation of the Phrygian 
Lityerses to the Phrygian Attis, it may be remem- 
bered that at Pessinus— the seat of a priestly kingship 
— the high-priest appears to have been annually slain 
in the character of Attis, a god of vegetation, and that 
Attis was described by an ancient authority as "a 
reaped ear of corn."^ Thus Attis, as an embodiment 
of the corn-spirit, annually slain in the person of his 
representative, might be thought to be ultimately 
identical with Lityerses, the latter being simply the 
rustic prototype out of which the state religion of Attis 
was developed. It may have been so; but, on the 
other hand, the analogy of European folk -custom 
warns us that amongst the same people two distinct 
deities of vegetation may have their separate personal 
representatives, both of whom are slain in the character 
of gods at different times of the year. For in Europe, 
as we have seen, it appears that one man was com- 
monly slain in the character of the tree-spirit in spring, 
and another in the character of the corn-spirit in 
autumn. It may have been so in Phrygia also. Attis 
was especially a tree-god, and his connection with corn 
may have been only such an extension of the power 
of a tree -spirit as is indicated in customs like the 
Harvest- May. '^ Again, the representative of Attis 
appears to have been slain in spring ; whereas 
Lityerses must have been slain in summer or autumn, 
according to the time of the harvest in Phyrgia.^ On 
the whole, then, while we are not justified in regard- 

1 Above, p. 299. 2 Above, p. 68. high upland character of the country, 
3 I do not know when the corn is liarvest is probably later there than on 
reaped in Phrygia ; but considering the the coasts of the Mediterranean. 


Ing Lityerses as the prototype of Attis, the two may 
be regarded as parallel products of the same religious 
idea, and may have stood to each other as in Europe 
the Old Man of harvest stands to the Wild Man, the 
Leaf Man, etc., of spring. Both were spirits or deities 
of vegetation, and the personal representatives of both 
were annually slain. But whereas the Attis worship 
became elevated into the dignity of a state religion 
and spread to Italy, the rites of Lityerses seem 
never to have passed the limits of their native 
Phrygia, and always retained their character of rustic 
ceremonies performed by peasants on the harvest-field. 
At most a few villages may have clubbed together, as 
amongst the Khonds, to procure a human victim to 
be slain as representative of the corn-spirit for their 
common benefit. Such victims may have been drawn 
from the families of priestly kings or kinglets, which 
would account for the legendary character of Lityerses 
as the son of a Phrygian king. When villages did 
not so club together, each village or farm may have 
procured its own representative of the corn -spirit 
by dooming to death either a passing stranger or the 
harvester who cut, bound, or threshed the last sheaf. 
It is hardly necessary to add that in Phrygia, as in 
Europe, the old barbarous custom of killing a man on 
the harvest-field or the threshing-floor had doubtless 
passed into a mere pretence long before the classical 
era, and was probably regarded by the reapers and 
threshers themselves as no more than a rough jest 
which the license of a harvest-home permitted them 
to play off on a passing stranger, a comrade, or even 
on their master himself. 

I have dwelt on the Lityerses song at length 
because it afibrds so many points of comparison with 


European and savage folk-custom. The other harvest 
songs of Western Asia and Egypt, to which attention 
has been called above, ^ may now be dismissed much 
more briefly. The similarity of the Bithynian Bormus- 
to the Phrygian Lityerses helps to bear out the inter- 
pretation which has been given of the latter. Bormus, 
whose death or rather disappearance was annually 
mourned by the reapers in a plaintive song, was, like 
Lityerses, a king's son or at least the son of a wealth)' 
and distinguished man. The reapers whom he watched 
were at work on his own fields, and he disappeared in 
going to fetch water for them ; according to one ver- 
sion of the story he was carried off by the (water) 
nymphs. =^ Viewed in the light of the Lityerses story 
and of European folk -custom, this disappearance of 
Bormus is probably a reminiscence of the custom of 
binding the farmer himself in a corn-sheaf and throw- 
ing him into the water. The mournful strain which 
the reapers sang was probably a lamentation over the 
death of the corn-spirit, slain either in the cut corn or 
in the person of a human representative; and the call 
which they addressed to him may have been a prayer 
that the corn -spirit might return in fresh vigour next 

The Phoenician Linus song was sung at the vintage, 
at least in the west of Asia Minor, as we learn from 
Homer ; and this, combined with the legend of Syleus, 
suggests that in ancient times passing strangers were 
handled by vintagers and vine -diggers in much the 
same way as they are said to have been handled by 
the reaper Lityerses. The Lydian Syleus, so ran the 
legend, compelled passers-by to dig for him in his 
vineyard, till Hercules came and killed him and dug 

1 Above, p. 364 sq. • Above, p. 365. ^ Hesychius, s.v. B:)/),ao;'. 


up his vines by the roots.^ This seems to be the out- 
Hne of a legend Hke that of Lityerses ; but neither 
ancient writers nor modern folk-custom enable us to 
fill in the details."- But, further, the Linus song was 
probably sung also by Phoenician reapers, for Hero- 
dotus compares it to the Maneros song, which, as we 
have seen, was a lament raised by Egyptian reapers 
oyer the cut corn. Further, Linus was identified with 
Adonis, and Adonis has some claims to be regarded 
as especially a corn-deity.^ Thus the Linus lament, 
as sung at harvest, would be identical with the Adonis 
lament ; each would be the lamentation raised by 
reapers ov6r the dead corn -spirit. But whereas 
Adonis, like Attis, grew into a stately figure of mytho- 
logy, adored and mourned in splendid cities far beyond 
the limits of his Phoenician home, Linus appears to 
have remained a simple ditty sung by reapers and 
vintagers among the corn-sheaves and the vines. The 
analogy of Lityerses and of folk-custom, both European 
and savage, suggests that in Phoenicia the slain corn- 
spirit — the dead Adonis — may formerly have been 
represented by a human victim ; and this suggestion 
is possibly supported by the Harran legend that 
Thammuz (Adonis) was slain by his cruel lord, who 
ground his bones in a mill and scattered them to the 
wind.^ For in Mexico, as we have seen, the human 
victim at harvest was crushed between two stones ; 
and both in India and Africa the ashes of the victim 
were scattered over the fields.^ But the Harran 
legend may be only a mythical way of expressing the 

1 Apollodorus, ii. 6, 3. See W. Mannhardt, Alj't/i. Forsch. p. 

2 The scurrilities exchanged in both 53 sq. 

ancient and modern times between ^ Above, p. 282 sqq. 

vine-dressers, vintagers, and passers-by * Above, p. 283 sq. 

seem to belong to a different category. ° Above, pp. 38 1, 3S4, 3S9. 


grinding of corn in the mill and the scattering of the 
seed. It seems worth suggesting that the mock king 
who was annually killed at the Babylonian festival of 
the Sacaea on the i6th of the month Lous may have 
represented Thammuz himself. For the historian 
Berosus, who records the festival and its date, prob- 
ably used the Macedonian calendar, since he dedicated 
his history to Antiochus Soter; and in his day the 
Macedonian month Lous appears to have corresponded 
to the Babylonian month Thammuz.^ If this conjec- 
ture is right, the view that the mock king at the 
Sacaea was slain in the character of a god would be 

There is a good deal more evidence that in Egypt 
the slain corn-spirit — the dead Osiris — was represented 
by a human victim, whom the reapers slew on the 
harvest-field, mourning his death in a dirge, to which 
the Greeks, through a verbal misunderstanding, gave 
the name of Maneros," For the legend of Busiris 
seems to preserve a reminiscence of human sacrifices 
once offered by the Egyptians in connection with the 
worship of Osiris. Busiris was said to have been an 
Egyptian king who sacrificed all strangers on the altar 
of Zeus. The origin of the custom was traced to a 
barrenness which afflicted the land of Egypt for nine 
years. A Cyprian seer informed Busiris that the 
barrenness would cease if a man were annually sacri- 

1 For this fact of the probable cor- month different, at least in the early 

respondence of the months, which sup- times of the Greek monarchy in Asia, 

plies so welcome a confirmation of the For we know from a Babyloni;in ob- 

conjecture in the text, I am indebted to servation in the Almagest [Idekr, i. 

my friend Professor W. Robertson 396) that in 229 B.C. Xanthicus began 

Smith, who furnishes me with the fol- on February 26. It was therefore the 

lowing note: "In the Syro-Mace- month before the equinoctial moon, 

donian calendar Lous represents Ab, not Nisan but Adar, and consequently 

not Tammuz. Was it different in I.ous answered to the lunar month 

Babylon? I think it was, and one Tammuz." ^ Above, p. 364. 


ficed to Zeus. So Busiris instituted the sacrifice. But 
when Hercules came to Egypt, and was being dragged 
to the altar to be sacrificed, he burst his bonds and 
slew Busiris and his son.^ Here then is a legend 
that in Egypt a human victim was annually sacrificed 
to prevent the failure of the crops, and a belief is 
implied that an omission of the sacrifice would have 
entailed a recurrence of that infertility which it was the 
object of the sacrifice to prevent. So the Pawnees, as- 
we have seen, believed that an omission of the human 
sacrifice at planting would have been followed by a 
total failure of their crops. The name Busiris was 
in reality the name of a city, pe-Asar, " the house 
of Osiris " " the city being so called because it con- 
tained the grave of Osiris. The human sacrifices 
were said to have been offered at his grave, and the 
victims were red-haired men, whose ashes were scat- 
tered abroad by means of winnowing- fans.^ In the 
light of the foregoing discussion, this Egvptian tradi- 
tion admits of a consistent and fairly probable explan- 
ation. Osiris, the corn-spirit, was annually represented 
at harvest by a stranger, whose red hair made him a 
suitable representative of the ripe corn. This man, 
in his representative character, was slain on the harvest- 
field, and mourned by the reapers, who prayed at the 
same time that the corn-spirit might revive and return 
(indd-ne-rha, Maneros) with renewed vigour in the 
following year. Finally, the victim, or some part of 
him, was burned, and the ashes scattered by winnow- 

1 Apollodorus, ii. 5,11; Schol. on that of Manetho (Plutarch, Is. ct Os. 

Apollonius Rhodius, iv. 1396; Phit- 73), who affirms that they did. 
arch, FaralL 38. Herodotus (ii. 45) ^ E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alter- 

discredits the idea that the Egyptians ilmvts, i. § 57. 

ever offered human sacrifices. But his ^ Diodorus, i. 88 ; Plutarch, Is. et 

authority is not to be weighed against Os. 73; cp. id., 30, 33. 

VOL. I 2 D 


ing-fans over the fields to fertilise them. Here the 
choice of the representative on the ground of his 
resemblance to the corn which he was to represent 
agrees with the Mexican and African customs already 
described/ Similarly the Romans sacrificed red-haired 
puppies in spring, in the belief that the crops would 
thus grow ripe and ruddy ; " and to this day in sowing 
wheat a Bavarian sower will sometimes wear a golden 
ring, that the corn may grow yellow.^ Again, the 
scattering of the Egyptian victim's ashes is identical 
with the Marimo and Khond custom.'^ His identi- 
fication with the corn comes out again in the fact that 
his ashes were winnowed ; just as in Vendee a pre- 
tence is made of threshing and winnowing the farmer's 
wife, regarded as an embodiment of the corn-spirit ; or 
as in Mexico the victim was ground between stones ; 
or as in Africa he was slain with spades and hoes.^ 
The story that the fragments of Osiris's body were 
scattered up and down the land, and buried by Isis 
on the spots where they lay,^ may very well be a 
reminiscence of a custom, like that observed by the 
Khonds, of dividing the human victim in pieces and 
burying the pieces, often at intervals of many miles 
from each other, in the fields. However, it is possible 
that the story of the dismemberment of Osiris, like 
the similar story told of Thammuz, may have been 
simply a mythical expression for the scattering of the 
seed. Once more, the story that the body of Osiris 
enclosed in a coffer was thrown by Typhon into the 

1 Above, pp. 307, 383, 391. Alythologie, ii. 207, No. 362; Bavaria, 

2 Festus, s.v. Catularia. Cp. id., Landes-und Volkskundc dcs Konigrcichs 
s.v. riitilae canes ; Columella, x. 343 ; Bayern, iii. 343. 

Ovid, Fasti, iv. 905 sqq.; Pliny, N. H. * Above, pp. 384, 389. 

xviii. § 14. ^ Above, pp. 381, 383. 

2 I'anzer, Beitrag zur deutschen ^ Plutarch, Is. et Os. 18. 


Nile perhaps points to a custom of throwing the body 
of the victim, or at least a portion of it, into the Nile 
as a rain-charm, or rather to make the Nile rise. For 
a similar purpose Phrygian reapers seem to have 
thrown the headless bodies of their victims, wrapt in 
corn-sheaves, into a river, and the Khonds poured 
water on the buried flesh of the human victim. Prob- 
ably when Osiris ceased to be represented by a human 
victim, an effigy of him was annually thrown into the 
Nile, just as the effigy of his Syrian counterpart, 
Adonis, used to be thrown into the sea at Alexandria. 
Or water may have been simply poured over it, as on 
the monument already mentioned a priest is seen 
pouring water over the body of Osiris, from which corn 
stalks are sprouting. The accompanying inscription, 
" This is Osiris of the mysteries, who springs from 
the returning waters," bears out the view that at the 
mysteries of Osiris a water-charm or irrigation-charm 
was regularly performed by pouring water on his 
effigy, or by throwing it into the Nile. 

It may be objected that the red-haired victims were 
slain as representatives not of Osiris, but of his enemy 
Typhon ; for the victims were called Typhonian, and 
red was the colour of Typhon, black the colour of 
Osiris.^ The answer to this objection must be reserved 
for the present. Meantime it may be pointed out that 
if Osiris is often represented on the monuments as 
black, he is still more commonly depicted as green,^ 
appropriately enough for a corn-god, who may be con- 
ceived as black while the seed is under ground, but as 
green after it has sprouted. So the Greeks recognised 

1 Plutarch Is. et Os. 22, 30, 31, 33, " Wilkinson, Manners and Customs 

7^. ' of the Ancient Egyptians (ed. 1878), 


both a sfreen and a black Demeter/ and sacrificed to 
the green Demeter in spring with mirth and gladness.^ 
Thus, if I am right, the key to the mysteries of 
Osiris is furnished by the melancholy cry of the 
Egyptian reapers, which down to Roman times could 
be heard year after year sounding across the fields, 
announcing the death of the corn -spirit, the rustic 
prototype of Osiris. Similar cries, as we have seen, 
were also heard on all the harvest-fields of West- 
ern Asia. By the ancients they are spoken of as 
songs ; but to judge from the analysis of the names 
Linus and Maneros, they probably consisted only of a 
few words uttered in a prolonged musical note which 
could be heard for a great distance. Such sonorous 
and long-drawn cries, raised by a number of strong 
voices in concert, must have had a striking effect, 
and could hardly fail to arrest the attention of any 
traveller who happened to be within hearing. The 
sounds, repeated again and again, could probably be 
distinguished with tolerable ease even at a distance ; 
but to a Greek traveller in Asia or Egypt the foreign 
words would commonly convey no meaning, and he 
might take them, not unnaturally, for the name of some 
one (Maneros, Linos, Lityerses, Bormus), upon whom 
the reapers were calling. And if his journey led him 
through more countries than one, as Bithynia and 
Phrygia, or Phoenicia and Egypt, while the corn was 
being reaped, he would have an opportunity of com- 
paring the various harvest cries of the different peoples. 
Thus we can readily account for the fact that these 
harvest cries were so often noted and compared with 
each other by the Greeks. Whereas, if they had been 

1 Pausanias, i. 22, 3, viii. 5, 8, viii. 42. i. 
'^ Cornutus, De nat. deor. c. 28. 


regular songs, they could not have been heard at such 
distances, and therefore could not have attracted the 
attention of so many travellers ; and, moreover, even 
if the traveller were within hearing of them, he could 
not so easily have picked out the words. To this day 
Devonshire reapers utter cries of the same sort, and 
perform on the field a ceremony exactly analogous 
to that in which, if I am not mistaken, the rites of 
Osiris originated. The cry and the ceremony are thus 
described by an observer who wrote in the first half 
of this century. " After the wheat is all cut, on most 
farms in the north of Devon, the harvest people have 
a custom of ' crying the neck.' I believe that this prac- 
tice is seldom omitted on any large farm in that part 
of the country. It is done in this way. An old man, 
or some one else well acquainted with the ceremonies 
used on the occasion (when the labourers are reaping 
the last field of wheat), goes round to the shocks and 
sheaves, and picks out a little bundle of all the best 
ears he can find ; this bundle he ties up very neat and 
trim, and plats and arranges the straws very tastefully. 
This is called 'the neck' of wheat, or wheaten-ears. 
After the field is cut out, and the pitcher once more 
circulated, the reapers, binders, and the women, stand 
round in a circle. The person with * the neck ' stands 
in the centre, grasping it with both his hands. He 
first stoops and holds it near the ground, and all the 
men forming the ring take off their hats, stooping and 
holding them with both hands towards the ground. 
They then all begin at once in a very prolonged and 
harmonious tone to cry ' the neck ! ' at the same time 
slowly raising themselves upright, and elevating their 
arms and hats above their heads ; the person with 'the 
neck ' also raising it on high. This is done three times. 
VOL. I 2 D 2 

4o6 CRYING THE NECK chap. 

They then change their cry to ' wee yen ! ' — ' way yen !' 
— which they sound in the same prolonged and slow 
manner as before, with singular harmony and effect, 
three times. This last cry is accompanied by the same 
movements of the body and arms as in crying ' the 
neck.' . . . After having thus repeated ' the neck ' 
three times, and 'wee yen,' or 'way yen,' as often, 
they all burst out into a kind of loud and joyous laugh, 
flinging up their hats and caps into the air, capering 
about and perhaps kissing the girls. One of them 
then gets ' the neck ' and runs as hard as he can down 
to the farmhouse, where the dairymaid or one of the 
young female domestics stands at the door prepared 
with a pail of water. If he who holds 'the neck ' can 
manage to get into the house, in any way unseen, or 
openly, by any other way than the door at which the 
girl stands with the pail of water, then he may lawfully 
kiss her ; but, if otherwise, he is regularly soused with 
the contents of the bucket. On a fine still autumn 
evening, the ' crying of the neck ' has a wonderful 
effect at a distance, far finer than that of the Turkish 
muezzin, which Lord Byron eulogises so much, and 
which he says is preferable to all the bells in Christen- 
dom. I have once or twice heard upwards of twenty 
men cry it, and sometimes joined by an equal number 
of female voices. About three years back, on some 
high grounds, where our people were harvesting, I 
heard six or seven ' necks ' cried in one night, although 
I know that some of them were four miles off. They 
are heard through the quiet evening air, at a consider- 
able distance sometimes."^ Again, Mrs. Bray tells 
how, travelling in Devonshire, " she saw a party of 
reapers standing in a circle on a rising ground, holding 

1 Hone, Every - day Book, ii. c. 1 1 70 sq. 


their sickles aloft. One in the middle held up some 
ears of corn tied together with flowers, and the party 
shouted three times (what she writes as) ' Arnack, 
arnack, arnack, we haven, we haven, we haven.' They 
went home, accompanied by women and children 
carrying boughs of flowers, shouting and singing. The 
man-servant who attended Mrs. Bray, said, 'it was only 
the people making their games, as they always did, to 
the spirit of harvest! " ^ Here, as Miss Burne remarks, 
" ' arnack, we haven ! ' is obviously in the Devon dialect, 
' a neck (or nack) ! we have un ! ' " " The neck" is 
generally hung up in the farmhouse, where it some- 
times remains for two or three years." A similar 
custom is still observed in some parts of Cornwall, as I 
am informed by my friend Professor J. H. Middleton. 
" The last sheaf is decked with ribbons. Two strong- 
voiced men are chosen and placed (one with the sheaf) 
on opposite sides of a valley. One shouts, ' I've 
gotten it.' The other shouts, ' What hast gotten ? ' 
The first answers, ' I'se gotten the neck.'" 

In these Devonshire and Cornish customs a par- 
ticular bunch of ears, generally the last left standing,' 
is conceived as the neck of the corn-spirit, who is con- 
sequently beheaded when the bunch is cut down. 
Similarly in Shropshire the name "neck," or "the 
gander's neck," used to be commonly given to the last 
handful of ears left standing in the middle of the field, 
when all the rest of the corn was cut. It was plaited 
together, and the reapers, standing ten or twenty 
paces off, threw their sickles at it. Whoever cut it 
through was said to have cut off the gander's neck. 

1 Miss C. S. Burne and Miss G. F. "- Hone, op. cit. ii. 1172. 

Jackson, Shropshire Folk-lore, p. 372 ^ Brand, Popular Antiquities, ii. 20 

sq., referring to Mrs. Bray's Traditions (Bohn's ed.); Burne and Jackson, op. 

of Devon, i. 330. cit. p. 371. 


The "neck" was taken to the farmer's wife, who was 
supposed to keep it in the house " for good luck " till 
the next harvest came round/ Near Treves, the 
man who reaps the last standing corn " cuts the 
goat's neck off."- At Faslane, on the Gareloch 
(Dumbartonshire), the last handful of standing corn 
was sometimes called the "head."^ At Aurich, in 
East Friesland, the man who reaps the last corn 
"cuts the hare's tail off"'^ In mowing down the 
last corner of a field French reapers sometimes call 
out, "We have the cat by the tail."^ In Bresse 
(Bourgogne) the last sheaf represented the fox. Beside 
it a score of ears were left standing to form the tail, 
and each reaper, going back some paces, threw his 
sickle at it. He who succeeded in severing it " cut off 
the fox's tail," and a cry of " Yott coti con ! " was raised 
in his honour.^ These examples leave no room to 
doubt the meaning of the Devonshire and Cornish 
expression "the neck," as applied to the last sheaf. 
The corn-spirit is conceived in human or animal form, 
and the last standing corn is part of its body — Its neck, 
its head, or its tail. Sometimes, as we have seen, it is 
regarded as the navel-string.^ Lastly, the Devonshire 
custom of drenching with water the person who brings 
in "the neck" is a rain-charm, such as we have had 
many examples of. Its parallel in the mysteries of 
Osiris was the custom of pouring water on the image 
of Osiris or on the person who represented him. 

In Germany cries of Waul ! or Wol ! or Wold! 
are sometimes raised by the reapers at cutting the last 
corn. Thus in some places the last patch of standing 

1 Burne and Jackson, I.e. * W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. p. 

2 W. Mannhardt, Myth. Forsch. p. 185. ^ lb. 

185. ^ Revite lies Traditions popidaiyes,\\. 

2 See above, p. 345. 500. ^ Above, jx 343. 



corn was called the Waul-xy^ ; a stick decked with 
flowers was inserted in it, and the ears were fastened 
to the stick. Then all the reapers took off their hats 
and cried thrice, Waul ! Waul! Waul I Sometimes 
they accompany the cry by clashing with their whet- 
stones on their scythes.^ 

1 U. Jahn, Die deutschett Opferge- 
brduche bei Ackerbau und Viehzitcht, pp. 
166-169 ; Pfannenschmid, Germanische 
Emtefeste, p. 104 sq. ; Kuhn, Westfdl- 
ische Sage}z, Gebrdncke und Mdrchen, 

ii. Nos. 491, 492; Kuhn und Schwartz, 
Norddctitsche Sagen, Mdrchen mid 
Gebrduche, p. 395, No. 97 ; Lynker, 
Deutsche Sagen und Sitfe?z in hessischen 
Gauen, p. 256, No. 340. - 


Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh. 



The golden bough; a study in comparative 

Princeton Theological Seminary-Speer Library 

1 1012 00009 3395 

• ■<■'